Last week, Tiger Woods was emphatic that he would never again be a full-time player on the PGA Tour because of the serious leg injuries he sustained in a high-speed car crash in February. But Woods conceded that he could “play a round here and there,” which he called, “a little hit and giggle.”
Woods is not waiting long to make an informal, and public, return to a golf course. On Wednesday, he announced he would play in a family team tournament with his son, Charlie, on Dec. 18 and 19. The event, the PNC Championship, has a small limited field — it was once called a father/son tournament — and will be contested at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Orlando, Fla.
“Although it’s been a long and challenging year,” Woods, whose doctors considered amputating his right leg 10 months ago, wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “I’m very excited to close it out by competing at the @PNC Championship with my son Charlie. I’m playing as a Dad and couldn’t be more excited and proud.”
Woods, who turns 46 on Dec. 30, has not played in a tournament of any kind since he entered the 2020 PNC Championship with Charlie, who is now 12, roughly a year ago. The duo finished seventh. Shortly afterward, Woods had a fifth back surgery that sidelined him for the next few months.
The PNC Championship’s 36-hole team format should make it easier for Woods to avoid placing too much stress on his lower right leg, which was reconstructed by doctors using a rod, screws and pins during emergency surgery following his crash outside Los Angeles on Feb. 23. Each player in a pairing will begin a hole by hitting from the tee and players will then pick which tee shot is most advantageous to play. Both players hit a second shot from that spot, a process that is repeated until the hole is finished.
Importantly for Woods, there will be only two 18-hole rounds rather than the usual four rounds on the PGA Tour and players can use golf carts driven within a few feet of a player’s ball. On the tour, golfers are required to walk.
The players will also play from different sets of tees, which means Charlie Woods will play from the forward tees and often make his father’s tee shots, which will be struck from much farther away, unnecessary. While Tiger Woods was hitting golf balls at a practice range during last week’s World Hero Challenge, a PGA Tour event he hosted in the Bahamas, he also made several jokes about how his shots were traveling about half the distance they once did because he lacked strength and the nerves in his right leg were diminished. From 2018 to 2020, Woods averaged about 299 yards in driving distance during tour events.
In last year’s PNC Championship, Woods sometimes had his son hit first — from tees that could be dozens of yards closer to the hole — and if Charlie’s tee shot was well-positioned on or near the fairway, Woods did not bother hitting his tee shot. The format, known as a scramble, could conceivably put Woods in a position to primarily hit less physically demanding shots struck with irons, wedges and a putter throughout his rounds. The format would also permit Woods to decline hitting any shots from a challenging, uneven lie or from daunting terrain that might put added force on his right leg.
NBC will televise both rounds of the PNC Championship.
Woods’s appearance on a golf course next week will likely spawn conversations about when he might return to the PGA Tour. The Masters Tournament, which he has won five times, is only four months away. But last week Woods cautioned against speculation about when, or if, he will return to elite competitive golf.
“I haven’t proven it to myself that I can do it,” Woods, who has won 15 major golf championships, said. “I can play a par-3 course and I can hit a few shots. I can chip and putt, but we’re talking about going out there and playing against the world’s best on the most difficult golf courses under the most difficult conditions.
“I’m so far from that. I have a long way to go to get to that point. I haven’t decided whether or not I want to get to that point. I’ve got to get my leg to a point where that decision can be made.”
Last year, however, Woods talked repeatedly about how much it meant to him to be able to play with Charlie.
“We can do this together for a lifetime,” Woods, who was taught the game by his father, Earl, who died in 2006, said. “I like the thought of having that opportunity to play with him for as long as I live.”
Several of Woods’s colleagues from the PGA Tour in the previous 25 years will join him in next week’s field, including his good friend Justin Thomas and his father and coach Mike Thomas; Jim Furyk and his son, Tanner; Henrik Stenson and his son, Karl; and the multiple major champion turned broadcaster Nick Faldo and his son, Matthew. Nelly Korda, the world’s top-ranked women’s golfer, will also make her debut in the event playing with her father, Petr.