‘He’s not that far away’: Pros assess state of Tiger Woods’ game at PNC Championship

Tiger Woods was the main draw in his return, and each shot he hit was under a microscope.

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Tiger Woods made his return to competitive golf last weekend at the PNC Championship, and it sent waves through the golf world. Yes, the event was just a parent-child scramble that’s a far cry from the cut-throat stakes of major championship golf, but considering where the 15-time major winner was just 10 months prior, even teeing it up alongside Charlie was a monumental achievement.

The field in Orlando was stocked with major champions, legends of the game, and even a world No. 1, but Tiger was still commanded all the attention. When Nelly Korda met Tiger for the first time, she gushed like a teen talking to their crush. Justin and Mike Thomas arrived at the Ritz-Carlton as defending champs, but their interviews revolved around the state of Tiger’s game. And Team Daly set a tournament scoring record as they held off a furious Sunday charge by Team Woods, but Tiger and Charlie were the main draw. Tiger is still the needle.

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Now, after a week of tape on Tiger’s new swing, the state of his game is becoming more clear. Although he set low expectations for his comeback earlier this month in the Bahamas, the first step in this comeback offered plenty to be optimistic about. Could he tee it up in a Tour event tomorrow if given the chance? Probably not. But his game is still miles ahead of where many predicted.

In some ways, the PNC Championship made the picture of Tiger’s game clearer. But in others, it muddied the waters even more. In reality, there is no one on the planet who can accurately assess Tiger’s game other than the man himself. But if there’s anybody who can attempt to give a quality assessment, it’s those who know his game and have seen it up close for years and year— his fellow pros.

Here’s what a few of them had to say about Tiger’s game when they were asked about it in Orlando.

Justin Thomas

“In terms of hitting shots and all that stuff, he’s not that far away. But in terms of being able to compete and walk 72 holes multiple weeks in a row, yeah, that’s a different story and he’s the only one that can answer that. But man, I was so impressed by the speed that he had and the shots he was hitting. At least from my perspective, it looked like a lot of the moves and everything were there. It just was if anything, a little short, which is probably — naturally you would think he’s not going to hit it as far but man, like that 4-iron he hit into three today that was just ridiculous. I looked at him and as soon as he sat in the cart, he just kind of looked at me and smiles and I knew exactly that that’s the kind of shots that he hits when he’s healthy.”

Lee Trevino

“I know when he’s going to play and when he’s not. He already told me all that stuff. He and I are good buddies. We’ve been good — I’ve known him since he was eight years old. Appreciate him very much. I know what he’s going through. I’ve gone through these back operations and stuff and whatever time limit you give him, he’ll beat it.”

Nick Faldo

“He seems like he can’t push. When he commented earlier in the week, he said he can’t really do this with his foot, can he, so walking flat courses is a possibility. Everybody wants to talk about Augusta but that’s the toughest walk of the year, isn’t it, downhill — you get shin splints being fit. Look what he’s done to his upper body. It’s just kind of dragging or pulling the right leg around. I’m not sure how much drive or thrust he’s got from that right ankle. But he’s certainly decided, well, I’m physically strong enough up top to swing it that way or muscle it that way because it looks good.”

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF.com, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf.