Saturday, April 10, 2021

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The two worlds of Tiger Woods on display at PNC Championship

Age-wise, Woods is almost exactly between Lee Trevino, who hit his prime several presidents ago, and Charlie Woods, whose future in golf seems bright if he wants to pursue it. Tiger will turn 45 at the end of this month, but still looks nowhere near ready to ride into the horizon.   

In fact, you might have thought you’d stepped into a time machine if you saw Woods and David Duval, a couple of Y2K masters of the universe, walking side-by-side Sunday. There was Woods in black and red, Duval in all black, each swooshed up in Nike. Only now they were playing in a scramble, and after falling out of contention it was just about enjoying the day.

“He and I talked about that on the first tee,” Duval said, when asked when they’d last played together. “I reckoned it was 15 years or so, and he was thinking 16 or 17 years.”

Duval, who has spent the last six years or so as an analyst for the Golf Channel, is 49. He doesn’t play much competitive golf these days and didn’t play much golf of any kind after undergoing neck surgery in July. He said he barely touched a club from April until October.

“It was just nice to be able to walk the fairway with (Woods) again and play and play well,” he said.

Someone asked him to assess Charlie’s game.

“The best way you can describe it is he’s got great fundamentals, and basically, he’s not afraid,” said Duval, a 13-time PGA TOUR winner. “Just like most young kids, it seems, aren’t afraid. And he hits the ball pretty darn far. … Charlie maximizes it. He gets it out there pretty darn good for a little fella, and it’s only going to get better if that’s what he wants.”

As for Charlie’s dad, Duval called him a friend; the GOAT, as in Greatest of All Time; and as nice and encouraging a playing partner as David’s son, Brayden, was likely to find at the PNC.

Indeed, Woods was not out to step on the necks of his fellow competitors; he said he hadn’t practiced. One got the sense that the PNC was Charlie’s idea, and Tiger came to support his son in whatever way he could, including handling the not insignificant media obligations.

Freed up to be himself, Charlie’s Tiger-like fist pump as they birdied the 10th hole Sunday – a moment Duval called “spectacular” – nicely encapsulated the week. Tiger and Presidents Cup teammate Justin Thomas texted Saturday night about the experience and what fun it all was.

The PNC is nominally a PGA TOUR Champions event, so it was put to Justin that perhaps he and Tiger had somehow earned honorary PGA TOUR Champions membership.

“He’s not too far from that,” said Thomas, 27.

No, perhaps not, but Woods would surprise no one by winning for the 83rd time next season, breaking out of a tie with Sam Snead atop the all-time list. It was only October of 2019, after all, when he last won at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP. He’s a statesman, he’s a Hall of Famer, he’s a dad, and he just played in the PNC, but Tiger Woods isn’t done yet.

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