What we learned about Tiger, Trevino’s yips tip, JT’s power boost | Monday Finish
Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where if this column runs too long we’re going to penalty putts. Let’s get to it!
FIRST OFF THE TEE
What Tiger showed Charlie.
This week’s PNC was the first time we’ve seen Charlie Woods do post-round interviews. And while these kid interviews are one of the reasons we love this event — think Karl Stenson’s irreverence last year or Will McGee’s sweetness this weekend — the stakes feel rather higher when it’s Charlie talking because of who his father is. It’s understandable to be concerned about the weight of expectations heaped on the 13-year-old son of the greatest golfer ever, especially when a cute father-son golf clip can become a viral rocket ship. Anyway, I’m not particularly interested in breaking down Charlie’s game; the Woodses had some sweet moments and birdie runs en route to a T8 finish. But I thought it was interesting to get Charlie’s perspective on Tiger.
Speaking to NBC’s Steve Sands after their first round, Charlie tackled, from a golfing angle, the impossible question of what it’s like to be Tiger Woods’ son. He focused on his dad’s latest comeback.
“It’s cool seeing how much he’s worked to get to where he is now. And how — I wouldn’t say how bad it was, but how much he pushed through. It was just really cool to see.”
After the final round on Sunday, Charlie doubled down on the same idea.
“I feel like I already knew what he was capable of and then yesterday, that’s the best he’s ever played, in a while, and that kind of shocked me a little bit.”
There aren’t many shots that Tiger Woods will hit the rest of his life that we haven’t seen him hit before. But Charlie has only played golf with a recent version of his father. Two years ago, in their PNC debut, Tiger was staring down back surgery. Last year he was making his first on-course appearance since his horrifying car crash. This year? Tiger was hobbled by plantar fasciitis and struggled to walk, but hot damn can he hit a golf ball.
We’ll never know exactly what life has been like for Tiger behind the scenes of these latest comebacks, just like Charlie won’t know what it was like to watch his father play in his mid-2000s prime. But Charlie does know what it’s been like at home of late. It’s cool to see a kid that’s proud of his dad.
The week also called to mind the other time this year that one of Tiger’s kids explained him. We heard Sam Woods, Tiger’s daughter, speak about her father at his Hall of Fame induction in March, when she highlighted Tiger’s presence away from the course.
“It’s been at the soccer fields and golf tournaments over the years that [her brother] Charlie and I have begun to realize how famous he actually is,” she said, cracking a smile. “I mean, how can a guy who still FaceTimes his friends to discuss Marvel and DC timelines and who goes to Comic-Con dressed as Batman be one of the greatest golfers that ever lived?”
Who won the week?
Vijay Singh and his son Qass won the actual PNC Championship in their 16th attempt. I know what you’re thinking: 16 attempts?! But our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, was a notorious failure for much of his young life, losing jobs and elections left and right. And when Albert Einstein was 16 he failed his school entrance exam.
“Failure is success in progress,” he said later. (I suppose he might have said it at the time, too, but it wouldn’t have meant much.)
It was a cool moment for Team Singh, who played their last six holes in six under to post a two-day score of 26 under par.
“We wanted this all year, so just to have it finally is like — it’s almost a dream come true,” Qass said. “It’s going to be a memory I’m going to have forever.”
“This is a highlight of my career, winning with him,” Vijay added. “He’s played this so many times and I wanted to win so bad for him.”
Is your glass half-full?
These days what you see when Tiger Woods plays golf depends on whether you’re a Tiger optimist or a Tiger realist.
Let’s start with the “realist” case, because it’s simple and straightforward. Tiger Woods will be 47 years old before 2022 is done. And, well, he can’t walk. Golf requires a lot of walking.
As for the optimist’s case? You’ve heard Charlie’s testimony: his dad is hitting shots he’s never seen before.
Tiger’s also swinging it harder than we’ve seen in multiple years. While I think it’s fair to be skeptical of PNC Championship ball speeds — could be some juiced radar guns — Woods clearly showed he can hit the 180 mph range. Not only is that well above PGA Tour average, it’s even longer than his big-hitting playing partner Justin Thomas.
Thomas, who was 14th on the PGA Tour in driving distance a year ago, says Woods can hit it past him (as he did several times throughout the week).
“Every day is different,” Thomas explained. “I mean, [Saturday] he was clearly moving really well, and obviously today he wasn’t moving as well.
“But yeah, we’ve hit balls at home and I mean, I wasn’t joking yesterday when I said it, when he’s feeling well, he’s longer than I am with a driver. I might be able to hit it farther than him if I go after one but consistently, I mean, he’s hitting it farther than I am right now.”
Thomas added that Woods would gladly trade 10 yards to be able to walk better.
“But yeah, it’s very impressive,” he said. “You can tell he’s very, very strong, very fit right now. It’s just dealing with the other issues.”
As for Tiger? He was self-effacing about his game — “I didn’t hit many good ones,” he said — but did acknowledge a couple towering 4-irons.
“It was basically me rolling the clock back a little bit, and hitting one of the old ones,” he said of one approach.
He still has some hands, too:
Want 10 more yards?
Justin Thomas isn’t just Tiger Woods’ friend! He also plays some golf of his own, and that golf was nearly good enough to win this weekend when he and his father Mike shot 24 under to finish T2.
But there was one interesting nugget he passed along about hitting driver: When he really wants to reach back for some extra yardage he picks up his left heel on his backswing and then lets it rip.
Just how big a difference does it make?
“It’s probably, I would say three- to five-mile-an-hour club speed and probably four, six, seven ball speed,” Thomas said on Sunday. “I know I feel comfortable that if I hit it solid I can fly it 315 or so, maybe 320 doing that. This course is very, very generous off the tee and if my dad hits a good drive, I definitely have the opportunity to do it out here.”
When I see that Tiger Woods has given Lee Trevino a putting tip on how to cure the yips, my ears perked up. Two of the golf’s most intriguing minds talking shop on the most vexing question in golf?
Trevino references his son (and PNC partner) Daniel, who is apparently battling the yips. And he demonstrates a putting drill Woods showed him where he puts his left thumb on top of the club as he makes a stroke with his right hand.
“So the guy says to Daniel — he’s got the putting yips — he says, you tell him to start putting one-handed and don’t move his hand back,” Trevino explains.
I sort of understand what he’s talking about. Something about feeling the putter head on the way back. Something about releasing the club on the way through. But I have as many questions as answers and just wanted to share so that you can be similarly vexed.
NEWS FROM SEATTLE
Monday Finish HQ.
It snowed on Sunday night in Seattle, already the second time this winter we’ve had serious accumulation in the Emerald City. Most of the storm happened after dark, so as I headed towards bed I switched on our outside light just for a moment to see how much had fallen. As an inch of snow appeared on the front walkway I got hit with a wave of memories from winters gone by, flicking on the outside light at home in Massachusetts to see what had fallen. It’s a nostalgic time of year and I hope you’re all gearing up for a glorious holiday season.
3 things to watch this week.
1. The 9-9-9 Challenge.
Last spring we trekked to Colorado to take on the famed 9-9-9-9-9 Challenge. That’s a nice full, fun day (nine ski runs, nine golf holes, nine innings of baseball) plus a fun twist (nine beers) plus a splash of misery (nine hot dogs).
See how we did and subscribe for more offbeat golfing fun coming soon:
2. Shaq Vs.
I stumbled on a highlight reel from this match pitting Shaquille O’Neal and Anthony Kim against a left-handed Charles Barkley plus Bubba Watson. What a time capsule!
3. Will McGee’s biggest fan.
When I was in sixth grade I certainly wasn’t trading TikToks with my math teacher; even MySpace wasn’t invented yet. Still, pretty fun to see Susan Morris out on the weekend pulling for her excited young student.
[Clears throat, smirks]
We’ll see you next year!