Tiger Woods shoots scramble 62 with son Charlie in first round of PNC Championship

ORLANDO, Fla. — Tiger Woods knows the challenges he faces, understands the physical limitations that will hinder him and realizes that this week’s PNC Championship is just one small step — painful as it may be — on his way back from a serious car crash .

All that perspective served him well as he played his first competitive round of golf in a year in what is considered a family off-season event for major champions.

He played with his son Charlie for the second year in a row — “Charlie is going to carry you guys, I guess,” Justin Thomas joked on the first hole — Woods showed flashes of the 15-time great champion, but many memories of the long journey he is about to embark on.

“It’s frustrating when I don’t hit the ball as far as I know I can and the shots I see aren’t coming the way I want,” Woods said after he and Charlie hit a scramble score of 10 together. under par 62 at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club. “By the old numbers, I have no stamina. I haven’t played. This is, what, my fourth, [fifth] round of the whole year. I have no golf stamina.

“It’s exhausting there, so it’s been a slow day. But that’s something that – if I want to compete here on the [PGA] Tour Level — I need to regain stamina and hit thousands and thousands of golf balls. Just needs time.”

Woods, who turns 46 on December 30, was in no way upset or discouraged. At least he seemed to be enjoying the day: sewing with Thomas and his father, Mike; the applause of the spectators eager to welcome him back. Among those in attendance were Woods’ daughter and Charlie’s sister, Sam; his girlfriend, Erica; friends; and players such as John Cook and Arjun Atwal. Ian Poulter, who lives in Orlando, was at the gallery with his son, Joshua, who wanted to watch Charlie as much as Tiger.

Woods’ competitive side showed strong after that when he noted that not bogeying was a goal; he and Charlie made one in each round last year on their way to shooting 62s a day. This 62 came with a clean card, trailing leaders Stewart Cink and his son, Reagan, by 3 strokes. The Woodses are on a five point tie for fifth.

Charlie, 12, hit some good tee shots to save his dad the trouble, and it became apparent as the day wore on that Woods’ walk was getting harder. In the Feb. 23 car accident in Southern California, Woods suffered multiple fractures to his right leg and numerous injuries to his foot and ankle. He was hospitalized for three weeks and it took months for him to walk without assistance.

“I wish I could have walked with him and been with him every step of the way like I was last year,” Woods said. “Physically I’m not able to do that. It was different to slow down with him and talk to him and make sure we were there and we’re still a team and we’re still all together to do.

“It’s a little harder when I’m in a cart driving around a bit or trying to get through the galleries. The guys are extremely respectful and wonderful. So supportive, but again, it’s totally different from walking step by step. Unfortunately, it’s a reality that we just can’t experience this year.”

Woods said there were only three shots he hit that would be consistent with what he’s used to: a 220-yard 4-iron behind the hole on the par-5 third; a good ride on the 14th; and a “smoked” iron 7 on the par-3 17th. His caddy, Joe LaCava, said the 7-iron traveled about 185 yards and was one of his more impressive shots.

“He might be down a club to half a club,” LaCava said. “It’s pretty impressive when you think about it, though.”

Thomas, who won the tournament with his father last year, was determined not to let Woods top, something that happened on the 11th hole.

“He really didn’t have to say anything,” Thomas joked. “I was just so ashamed that he slammed it past me. That was enough.”

Thomas, who won the Players Championship for his 14th PGA Tour win earlier this year, has probably spent more time with Woods lately than anyone else. He is well aware of the obstacles Woods faces. But he saw a lot of positives in his game.

“I was so impressed with the speed he had and the shots he hit,” said Thomas. “At least from my perspective, it seemed like a lot of the moves and everything was there. If something was a little short, of course you’d think he won’t hit it that far.

“But man, that 4-iron he hit in 3 today, that was just ridiculous. I looked at him as soon as he was in the cart, he just kind of looked at me and smiled and I knew exactly that that’s the kind of shots that he hits when he’s healthy.”

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