ORLANDO – Tiger Woods passed the first test of his latest comeback with flying colors.
He and son Charlie teamed to reel off a tournament record 11 birdies in a row and shoot 15-under 57 at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in the two-man scramble format, but it wasn’t enough to catch John Daly and son John II at the PNC Championship.
“To be here and win a big tournament like this with my son, nothing can beat it,” said John Daly after he and his son shot 57 and a 36-hole total of 27-under 117.
On a sun-soaked Sunday, Team Woods was paired in the final round of the tournament with Matt Kuchar and his son, Cameron, and the elder Kuchar gushed afterwards about how well Woods played just 10 months after the jaws of life were needed to rescue him from an SUV that rolled into an embankment on a busy Los Angeles boulevard.
“He still can flush it, he’s still got speed, still hit irons spectacular that were Tiger Woods of old-like irons. It was awesome,” Kuchar said.
It was just a few weeks ago that Tiger posted a video of himself hitting a golf shot at home under the headline “making progress.” He was the last player in the 20-team field to commit to the tournament. When asked if he thought Tiger’s game was ready for the PGA Tour, Kuchar didn’t hesitate.
“Yes,” he said. “Easy as that.”
Tiger, however, didn’t agree. “I’m not at that level. I can’t compete against these guys right now, no,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of work to get to where I feel like I can compete with these guys and be at a high level.”
Team Woods, who opened with a 10-under 62 on Saturday, got off to a fast start in the final and posted the second-best score on the front nine.
“When we made the turn, I told Charlie, I said, ‘We’re going to have to at least birdie out or at least make eight out of the nine on the back nine to have a chance.’ There were just too many groups that were either tied with us or ahead of us,” Woods said.
Charlie, 12, showed no nerves, hitting a series of beautiful irons, especially at the par-3 12th and 17th, where he hit a 5-iron to about 5 feet, which was the closest of any of the competitors all day.
Only 1,000 tickets were sold to the public and it seemed as if everyone of them was watching Tiger and Charlie, including baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., and countless grown men dressed in Tiger’s traditional Sunday red and black. Former Tour pro John Cook went out to walk the back nine with Tiger, his old practice-round pal here in town, and marveled at what he was seeing.
“Who knew a U.S. Open was going to break out,” he said, adding, “but you know Tiger, he’s not a just-show-up type of guy.”
“The competitive juices, they are never going to go away,” Tiger said. “This is my environment. This is what I’ve done my entire life. I’m just so thankful to be able to have this opportunity to do it again.”
Team Woods had one last chance at the par-5 18th to apply pressure to the Team Daly, who were playing behind them, but failed to convert on their birdie tries.
“We knew on the tee box (at 18) that we needed three to probably get into a playoff or at least make it interesting for the Dalys’ back there,” Woods said.
For Woods, who spent three months in a hospital bed and didn’t know if he’d ever walk let alone play golf again, the week was a resounding success.
“To push as hard as we have the last seven months with taking no days off and just working our butts off each and every day, and to have this opportunity to be able to play with my son and to have these memories, for us, for both of us, our lifetime, it’s worth all the pain.”