Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Orlando, Grande Lakes; Orlando, FL — December 19, 2021
The PNC Championship website bills the tournament as “This is where family moments happen. The PNC Championship provides the unique chance to see 20 Major Champions team up with a member of their family and play the game they truly love — together.”
For the sold-out crowd, the buzz was “Tiger’s going to play.” Making his first public appearance on a golf course in a tournament format since his life-threatening car crash on February 23, 2021, Tiger Woods brought out the fans, media, and television cameras to observe and document the moment.
Tiger and his son, Charlie, played together at the same tournament in 2020. They combined for a 7th place finish at 20 under par. Tiger told CBS Sports “The fact that we were able to have this experience together — its memories for a lifetime.”
2021 will be memorable, for a lot of different reasons.
The roads of Rolling Hills Estates on the southside of Los Angeles are generally not too busy at 7 am in the morning, still going 87 mph in a 45-speed zone might be pushing it a bit. The 2021 Genesis GV80 SUV, Tiger Woods was driving, was thought to be traveling at a speed of 75 mph when he lost control.
The vehicle bounced off a curb, hit a tree, took out a wooden road sign, and flipped several times before coming to rest at the bottom of a ravine. Tiger was wearing his seat belt, good thing, it probably saved his life.
Unfortunately, golf’s superstar shattered his ankle and fractured 2 major bones in his right leg including multiple breaks to the tibia, including one that protruded through his skin.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva stated, “The primary causal factor for this traffic collision was driving at a speed unsafe for the road conditions and the inability to negotiate the curve of the roadway estimated speeds at the first area of impact were 84 to 87 miles per hour.” The Sheriff’s Department reported that Woods was not impaired at the time of the crash. It was simply an accident. Woods has no recall of the events.
Tiger Woods has already proved his ability to come back from injuries. Fluid removed from his left knee caused him to miss two weeks in 2002. But, he won his 1st tournament back the 2003 Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines.
Two surgeries to the same knee sidelined Tiger for 9-months in 2008, it was revealed that he had been playing with a stress fracture of the left tibia.
In 2010, Woods was forced to withdraw from The Players Championship with a bulging disc in his neck. Issues with the surgically repaired left knee continued to bother Tiger in 2011-12.
Back trouble brought his career to an abrupt halt in 2014, ongoing back spasms led to surgery and those problems continued through 2017. That extended absence from the PGA Tour was famously punctuated with his comeback victory in the 2019 Masters.
This time, the challenge may be the biggest he has faced yet. Speaking Friday, prior to the 2021 PNC Championship, he talked comparatively. “This one’s been a lot harder,” pausing to chuckle. “It’s been, yeah, the leg was pretty messed up. I’m happy it’s still attached.”
Can Son Charlie Carry Tiger Through the Weekend
The PNC Championship is a 2-day, 36 hole tournament played in scramble format. Both players tee off and the team selects the best drive. Then, both players play the next shot from the better of their two positions. This continues until they finish the hole.
Pre-tournament speculation had announcers saying Charlie would have to carry his Dad in order for the team to be competitive. Not litterally, Tiger rode in a golf cart to make his way around the 18 holes. He vowed not to petition the PGA to use a cart should he return to the Tour. If he could not walk the course he would not play. But, for this exhibition it was the only way he could join the field.
True to predicitions, Charlie hit his share of impressive golf shots. Tiger said he hit two or three shots he was happy with, Charlie took care of business for the pair. They scored an opening round 62, 10 strokes under par. Good enough for a spot near the top of the leaderboard just three strokes behind the 59 leaders Stewart Cink and his son, Reagan, posted on Saturday.