ORLANDO — Tiger Woods left the PNC Championship Sunday more hopeful about his playing schedule than he did last year, which bodes well for the prospects of seeing him on the course more in 2024.
Sure, his body hurts. That’s to be expected after all the injuries and surgeries that he has had over the years. Yet after playing six competitive rounds of golf in the last two weeks—five of them walking, one riding in a golf cart—the 15-time major champion was pleased with how he felt upon wrapping up a fourth consecutive appearance with son Charlie at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club.
“I think that a lot of things are aching a lot more than my ankle, which is the way it goes,” said Woods, who had surgery on his right ankle in April after withdrawing from the Masters prior to the third round. “I'll be able to walk and play. We've been working out hard, been able to recover. We've been training every day, which is great. It's been nice to knock off a lot of the rust and some of the doubt that I've had because quite frankly I haven't hit a shot that counted in a long time.”
The Woods shot 64-61 to tie for fifth place at 19 under par, six shots behind Bernhard and Jason Langer at 25 under. The winning duo shot 60-59 and Bernhard, 66, won this championship for the fifth time overall, the third time with Jason. David Duval and his son Brady eagled the final hole to sneak by the Singhs to grab second place.
A year ago, Woods was set to play in the Hero World Challenge, but withdrew late because of plantar fasciitis. He did, however, play the 2023 PNC, but rode in a golf cart for the 36-hole event.
This year, he opened his PGA Tour season with a tie for 45th place at the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, then made the cut at the Masters before the WD. He did not appear in another event until the Hero two weeks ago in the Bahamas, where he shot 75-70-71-72 to finish 18th in the 20-man field.
The PNC Championship is more about fun than competition. Woods played in the pro-am Friday with Annika Sorenstam and her son Will McGee, then played in the first round with his buddy Justin Thomas and his father Mike. Woods made it a full family affair by having his daughter Sam serve as caddie for both days, something she had never done.
On Sunday, playing with Steve Stricker and his daughter Izzi, the Woods were too far off the lead to really contend—coming off an opening round in which Charlie proclaimed “we just suck at putting”—and sputtered at the start, making par on three of the first four holes. But Tiger rolled in an eagle putt on the fifth hole and then Charlie provided the loudest roars of the day when he chipped in from short, left of the green on the par-4 ninth hole. A Tiger-like fist pump followed the feat.
They turned in 31, added six more birdies over the final nine holes and proclaimed the week a success even though they fell short of their goal.
“Well, you had to hit a lot of different shots,” said Tiger, who will turn 48 on Dec. 30. “But at the end of the day, it's a scramble. We get ball-in-hand, and to be able to tee the ball up, this would have been a very different day if we had to play the ball down or we couldn't tee it up and put the ball-in-hand.
“I was able to hit a lot of little nifty little shots, like 10, or some of the shots I hit pin-high just because we had ball-in-hand. But the fact that I was able to hit the shots both ways, which was nice.”
Where Tiger plays next is unclear, but he indicated two weeks ago that he would love to play in one event a month starting most likely in February at the Genesis Invitational, which benefits his Tiger Woods Foundation. If healthy, that means a schedule of something like the Genesis, Players, Masters, PGA, U.S. Open and Open Championship are all possibilities. And yes, he still believes he can win again.
It was a family affair for Tiger Woods at the PNC Championship, with daughter Sam as his caddie and son Charlie his teammate.
“I think given the fact that, if I’m able to practice and do the things that I know I can do, and prepare, I know that I can still do it,” he said. “I can still hit the golf ball. It’s just a matter of prepping and get enough reps in and get enough work in and being right physically and the endurance capability of it.
“I know if I can practice, I know I can still do it. I can still hit the golf ball. I can still chip. I can still putt. Granted it's also putting it all together for 72 holes. That's the challenging part of it.”