A smiling Tiger Woods made a successful return to competitive golf on Saturday.
The 45-year-old golfing icon teamed up with his son Charlie to card a 10-under-par 62 at the PNC Championship family tournament in Florida.
Woods, playing for the first time since suffering career-threatening injuries in a February crash in California, showed flashes of his old brilliance even though he lacked his usual power and length.
Woods used a cart to help ferry him around the Ritz Carlton Golf Course’s 7,106-yard layout.
He later admitted the physical demands of the round had been challenging; at one point Woods was seen wincing visibly.
“It’s frustrating when I don’t hit the ball as far as I know that I can and the shots that I see don’t come off the way I want,” Woods told reporters, saying he hit only “three good shots” all round.
“I don’t have endurance. I haven’t played. This is, what, my fourth, fifth round the entire year? I don’t have any golf endurance,” the 15-time Major champion said.
“It’s tiring out there, so it was a slow day. If I want to compete out here at the Tour level I’m going to have to get the endurance back and hit thousands upon thousands of golf balls. Just takes time.”
Woods, who has declined to put a timetable on his return to fully-fledged PGA Tour-level tournament golf, said his physical conditioning was still a long way from where it would need to be.
“I don’t have it. You know that,” Woods said of his fitness. “I don’t have the game or the speed or any of that. So I’m just starting to get back into it. I didn’t know if I was going to play in this event a couple weeks ago.
“I can still hit short irons and I can still putt. That has not left me. The speed and some of the shots, the longer stuff has.
“I don’t practice. You can’t practice and after what I’ve been through this year, it’s been a difficult year. So understand that I’m not in golf shape. I’m not in practice shape. I’m definitely not in tournament shape.”
Woods and his son, dressed in matching uniforms, laughed and joked throughout the round, which he played alongside close friend Justin Thomas and father Mike Thomas.
“Charlie and I had a blast playing together again, playing with the Thomas family. We’re extremely close so it was a bunch of fun there, was a lot of needling going on the entire day,” he said.
“We’re pulling pranks on each other and giving each other some under-the-breath remarks that I’m glad they didn’t capture. We had a great time. It was just a blast.”
The Woods duo was also happy to have completed a bogey-free round with 10 birdies and eight pars making up their 62, which left them three behind the leading duo of Stewart Cink, the 2009 Open champion, and son Reagan.
Charlie smokes a drive
Charlie nails the approach
Tiger sinks the putt
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 18, 2021
“We had one thing we wanted to do – we wanted to keep a clean card,” Woods said. “Last year we made a bogey in each round. This year we didn’t, our third straight 62 which I think is pretty good. Hopefully tomorrow we get off to a quick start and keep it going.”
The two-round 20-team PNC Championship concludes on Sunday.
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
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