During his first press conference since being involved in a one-car accident that could have killed him, Tiger Woods was asked to recall the first day he walked again without crutches, or any other help.
“I did it maybe probably a little earlier than they suggested,” he said, a classic Tiger non-answer that told you everything you needed to know.
Of course, he’s ahead of the timeline given by doctors — he’s Tiger Woods. He lives for a challenge and this may be the biggest one of his life. Tiger said going from immobile in his hospital bed for several months to able to walk into the press conference on his own was “a longer process that I thought.” But here he is, already able to play some holes.
Who thought that was possible back in February during the around-the-clock coverage of his accident and pronouncements by the medical staff made it sound doubtful he’d ever play let alone walk again?
So, here’s something I didn’t think I’d be typing nine months later: Tiger should play in the PNC Championship in Orlando in a few weeks with son Charlie.
Photos: Tiger Woods, son Charlie Woods at PNC Championship
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It may sound crazy, though organizers of the event are holding a spot for Woods should he come to his senses. Tiger may deem it too soon but hear me out. While Tiger lowered expectations about a comeback, saying he “has so far to go,” and “is not even at the halfway point” in his recovery, he sees a future in the game and did say, “I’ll play a round here or there, a little hit and giggle, I can do something like that.”
If that isn’t the PNC Championship, a 36-hole team event that pairs 20 winners of prestigious titles alongside a family member in a scramble competition, I don’t know what is.
Tiger cracked a tired joke about being four years away from riding a cart, a reference to playing on PGA Tour Champions. Well, guess what? Carts are kosher at the PNC Championship. Give him one of those handicapped flags and let him drive it on the green if need be, as far as his fans are concerned. In other words, having to walk 72 holes, which makes a return to competing on the Tour a non-starter for the time being, is a non-issue at the PNC. He can drive his cart, skip shots, put his ball in his pocket when he wants to and let Charlie do the heavy lifting. In short, this is the perfect spot to dip his toe back in the water for playing competitive golf again.
Tiger said he’s been stroking putts with “old faithful,” and can out-chip and out-putt the best players in the world. Well, let Charlie bang driver from the forward tees and hit approach shots and Tiger can do his magician thing around the green. When they played for the first time in this friendly exhibition last year, Tiger often skipped hitting tee shots anyway knowing that he couldn’t rip one past Charlie.
Is it too much pressure for a 12-year-old kid? Possibly, but Charlie proved a year ago that he can handle the bright lights of the camera. He thrived in the spotlight, and, as a matter of fact, he stole the spotlight from his famous father.
Something tells me that Tiger has had the PNC event circled on his calendar for the very reasons I’ve mentioned. My lasting takeaway from watching Tiger and Charlie play at the PNC Championship last year?
I had never seen Tiger look so happy.
It’s been a tough year for Tiger, and there’s no better medicine than a smile.
This also is why he’s worked so hard to get to this point. It’s not about climbing to the top of Mount Everest anymore, or 19 majors. Tiger said it is about being able to be involved in the lives of his children, noting that he’s “not the hip, cool dad at times,” and needs to keep up with the lingo.
Tiger could use a few days of being Tiger. The best part of Henni Koyack’s exclusive interview with Tiger was when he talked about his son and how a bad temper was affecting his golf scores. Tiger told Charlie it was OK to let the anger out — as he was prone to do — but to never let it affect the next shot.
“The next shot is more important than breathing,” Tiger taught him.
The PNC Championship can be one big teachable moment, not just for Charlie but for Tiger to prove to himself that he can not only accept his current station in life with a right leg that may never be what it used to be, but enjoy his new role in the game, even if that role is as a ceremonial golfer.
Just sitting next to his son in a cart, chipping and putting and doing some version of the thing he loves most is a victory of sorts, and a milepost on his way to eventually playing on the PGA Tour again and as he so eloquently put it, “clicking off a tourney here or there.”
Both father and son can probably use playing in the PNC Championship more than either of them really know.