ORLANDO, FL — Tiger Woods might not be ready for tour-level golf. He can still deliver quite a show.
In a remarkable return from a car crash 10 months ago that badly damaged his right leg, Woods and 12-year-old son Charlie set a tournament record with 11 straight birdies and pushed John Daly and his college son all the way to the finish Sunday in the PNC Championship.
Daly and John Daly II, a freshman at Arkansas, shot 57 in the scramble format and won by two shots. It might have been the widest Woods ever smiled after a runner-up finish.
“The fact that I’m able to have this opportunity this year — even a couple weeks ago we didn’t really know whether or not I would be doing this,” Woods said. “But here we are. And we had just best time ever.”
The birdie streak began on the seventh hole when Woods hit a half-wedge into a foot. Charlie holed a 10-footer on the next hole, stooping to pick up the marker before the ball was even in the cup, another moment where the confident son looked a lot like his father.
It was like that over the final two hours, Woods often hitting the key irons and Charlie making the putts. They briefly had the lead after a birdie on the 14th and the margin was thin the rest of the way until the very end.
Daly, playing two groups behind, birdied the 16th hole to regain the lead. He and his son stayed in front when Team Woods chipped too strong on the par-5 closing hole and each of them missed 8-foot birdie putts. They shot 57 with only four pars, two of them on par 5s.
“We thought we’d have to birdie every hole on the back nine, and it turned out to be that way,” Woods said. “But man, what a blast it was. We just had a blast all day.”
Daly and son two-putted for birdie on the 18th and set the record that mattered. They finished at 27-under par, breaking by one the mark set by Davis Love III and his son three years ago.
“Yesterday, it was all him. I putted so bad,” Daly said. “I finally hit some decent shots. He played unbelievable. I played a little better today. I made him happy.”
The most famous encounter between Woods and Daly was in 2005 at Harding Park in a World Golf Championship, which ended in a playoff when Daly three-putted from 15 feet. Woods was charging again — Tiger and Charlie — except Team Daly didn’t flinch. Daly hit 7-iron into the wind to short range on the 16th for birdie, and he coaxed in a 4-foot par putt on the 17th to stay ahead.
The most popular offseason event that pairs major champions and a family member suddenly felt tense on a warm Florida afternoon, all because of Woods and everything that led to him playing again.
Woods suffered multiple injuries to his right leg on Feb. 23 when his SUV traveling about 85 mph crashed through a median and down a hill in the Los Angeles suburbs. He said amputation was a possibility. It took three months for him to get on his feet with help of crutches. And he ended the year in a Sunday red shirt, holing birdie putts and delivering short irons that led to one birdie after another and a chase that felt like old times.
This wasn’t just about Woods. His son, playing this event for the second straight year, delivered the goods down the stretch, particularly a 5-iron to 4 feet on the par-3 17th that gave them a tie for the lead going to the 18th. Team Daly held it steady behind them.
It was only one month ago when Woods first posted a three-second video showing him hitting a short iron with the message, “Making progress.” He was hitting balls at the back of the range at Albany in the Bahamas two weeks ago. He was able to ride a cart at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando, which helped him get by in the 36-hole event on a flat course. He kept insisting that playing at a high level against the best players in the world is still a long way and a lot of work ahead of him. But there was no shortage of birdies, big shots and loads of hopes for a fairy tale ending.
“The competitive juices, they are never going to go away,” Woods 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. Earlier this year was not a very good start to the year and it didn’t look very good,” he said. “But the last few weeks, to push as hard as we have the last seven months … and to have this opportunity to be able to play with my son and to have these memories, it’s worth all the pain.”