ORLANDO, Fla. — Tiger Woods has a notoriously bad back, but it was his son, Charlie, who might have been feeling the pain Saturday after carrying his dad for most of the first round of the PNC Championship. Charlie Woods, 11, made his debut in the tournament reserved for major champions and family members and did not disappoint, as the team combined to shoot 10-under-par 62 in the scramble format at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club.
The Woodses trail tournament leaders Matt and Cameron Kuchar by 4 strokes and are tied for sixth in the 36-hole competition.
Tiger, who has had four back procedures since 2014, chuckled at the idea of Charlie carrying him, saying: “He did. He hit some of the most incredible golf shots. He had the best time. It couldn’t have been a better environment.”
The Woods team played with Justin Thomas and his father, Mike Thomas, who also shot 62. Thomas’ mom, Jani, caddied for Mike Thomas. And while Joe LaCava was on Tiger’s bag, his son, Joe Jr., caddied for Charlie.
Charlie has played a good bit of golf with both Justin and Mike Thomas. “I knew what he had,” Mike Thomas said. “He was impressive. Very impressive.”
Charlie Woods drove the ball so nicely — with a considerable advantage in front of the pro tees — that on three occasions Tiger didn’t even bother to hit a tee shot — on the 13th, 14th and 18th holes. Charlie went first, drove the ball well into the fairway … then turned around to give his dad a thumbs-up.
The highlight was the par-5 third hole, where Charlie’s drive from the forward tee was deemed a bit better than Tiger’s.
Deciding between a 5-wood and a 3-wood, Charlie went with the 3 and blasted it up toward the green, the ball hooking and bouncing up near the hole, just 3 feet away. Tiger’s iron shot from the same spot flew a considerable distance from pin.
Charlie always putted first and calmly knocked it in for an eagle — one he made all on his own and which produced a big smile and reaction from his dad.
“I’ve seen this,” Woods said. “A lot of the shots he’s hit. I’ve seen it this entire year, this entire pandemic. He hit these shots. The few events he’s played in, he’s hit a lot of these shots. But this is a totally different deal.”
Woods began to see improvement from his son earlier this year as they played a good bit at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. At Woods’ club, the Medalist, there was a time where golfers were not allowed to play with anyone but family members. So Tiger played all of his golf with Charlie, whose game excelled.
Despite an edict that no spectators would be permitted at the PNC Championship, pro-am participants and one guest were allowed to attend, meaning there were more than 200 spectators following the Woods group.
“It doesn’t change,” Woods said. “Whether it’s by yourself or in front of thousands of people, it’s still the same shots. You still have to go from point A to point B. That’s the things Charlie has been learning and will continue to work on.”
With six birdies, an eagle and two pars on the front side, the team shot 8-under-par 28. The Woods team cooled off somewhat on the back nine, making three birdies and a bogey to shoot 34 for a final tally of 62.
“I’ve been around him a lot and I’ve seen it,” Justin Thomas said. “I wasn’t surprised. I knew he was going to wow a lot of people. It was cool to see him shape shots, hit it both ways. I wanted every shot he hit to be the best shot he hit all day.”