Tiger Woods is playing golf at this week’s PNC Championship. For that reason I would like to shout out Kevin Na and Jason Kokrak for their victory at last weekend’s QBE Shootout but also apologize to them because that’s the only mention they’ll get in this week’s Monday Finish. Instead let’s look back at last year’s PNC — and not just at Team Woods! — to better prepare us for what to expect this week. Yes, we’ll be breathlessly analyzing Tiger Woods’ every step. But if we’re spending the week before Christmas watching a bunch of professional golfers tee it up with their families, we need some other specifics to get excited for, too.
What caught our attention in December 2020? Step inside the time machine, shut the door, dial it back 51.5 weeks and let’s see what tickled our fancy last year…
Charlie Woods’ JT trash talk
There’s something genuine and endearing about the friendship that has formed between two of golf’s first families. Here’s how Tiger described it to Golf Digest: “The Thomases and the Woodses are like family. JT is like the brother I never had, and Charlie is like the little brother that JT never had.”
With brotherhood comes some good-natured competition. Thomas laid out the stakes for the PNC last year, calling his effort to beat Tiger and Charlie his “fifth major.”
“For some reason, Charlie just always wants to beat me, it doesn’t matter what it is. Although he’s never beaten me in golf or a putting contest, he still talks trash just like his dad,” Thomas joked at Mayakoba a couple weeks before the tournament. “It will be fun. We’ll have that like inner tournament within a tournament, trying to shut his little mouth up, but it will be fun.”
The trash-talking transcends generations. Early in the week Justin’s father Mike Thomas left a note for Charlie when he’d missed right off the tee. “DRAW HOLE,” the note read. Charlie stored it away — and then left it for Justin when his tee shot found the right fairway bunker on No. 13.
“He was smart enough to keep the note and use it in the same situation,” Thomas said. “So it was very well played. It was very smart for a kid his age.”
John Daly, Southern Santa
The golf world may have no better avatar than that of John Daly to celebrate the Christmas season. He has the beard. The figure. The white hair. The fondness for red clothing. Sure, the cigarette habit may be a little off-putting for youngsters, but they’ll know an icon when they see one. Bad Santa is back.
Mark O’Meara’s hipster kid
An actual quote from Mark O’Meara’s son Shaun at last year’s event: “I told Dad, ‘You handle playing well and I’ll handle looking good.’”
Mark O’Meara has spent his golf career very much blending into the PGA Tour’s aesthetic. Shaun, on the other hand, would prefer to shake things up a little bit. That seems to be his personality as well as his profession; he’s the Director of Sales for Duvin Design, which probably lends itself to a slightly more avant-garde look on the course. Like, say, this:
Let’s see what O’Meara has in store this year — and if he’s gotten his dad on board. (Duvin’s golf designs are on sale here, if you’re intrigued…)
I am numb to most impressive low-score-related golf accomplishments, but the fact that 81-year-old Lee Trevino and his son Daniel can post a scramble score of 25 under par for two rounds continues to amaze me. These two could come win your four-player charity scramble by themselves — and provide some pearls of wisdom in the process. Here’s to another year of Lee and Daniel in action.
Charlie’s fan club
Tiger Woods wasn’t the only parent on hand to watch Charlie during the PNC’s final round. His ex-wife Elin Nordegren was among those following from outside the ropes, taking in the action with their daughter, Sam. We’ve heard Tiger talk about his role as Charlie’s father for years, but Elin has (understandably!) removed herself from the public eye over the last decade. It was fantastic to see her there with her daughter, supporting her son, watching some golf at the fan-free PNC.
How do you handle complex family dynamics on a live TV broadcast? Golf Channel tried to strike the balance all week, and when it came to discussing Nordegren’s appearance they turned to former teammate and longtime Woods friend Notah Begay III, who shed some light on their parenting dynamic.
“It’s been incredible,” Begay III said. “You never know how a parent separation is going to affect the kids and both Tiger and Elin have made it such a huge priority to protect the interests of their kids and their privacy. Tiger talked about it yesterday in his post-round comments, making sure he takes the brunt of the media requests here, trying to make sure that both Sam and Charlie, from both Elin and Tiger, have a nice quality childhood like anybody else out there.”
Gary Player, lesson-giver
“You shouldn’t even see a putt this long go in the hole,” 85-year-old Gary Player told 11-year-old Charlie Woods. “You’re going to listen. Are your ears good?”
The point he was making was a simple one: Keep your head down while you’re putting. No peeking! The way he delivered it — looming over Charlie in a particularly meddling-grandfather sort of way — made the exchange particularly memorable.
Joey Jr. conducts business the same way as his father: Quietly, matter-of-factly and with good humor. Just look at this body language:
Last week Dan Rapaport reported that the band was getting back together, which means more Tiger and Joe — and more Charlie and Joey, too. It’s heartwarming to see two sons try out their fathers’ respective crafts.
A less-than-healthy Tiger Woods
This is something we’re dearly hoping not to see this year. What has been lost to the sands of time is the fact that Tiger played last year’s competition at less-than-perfect health, notably wincing after some full swings, captured nicely by Eric Patterson below:
A pessimistic column would point out that this was pre-crash, pre-surgeries, pre-rehab. There’s no way he can walk, move or swing as well this year. This is not that column. Instead, while we know he’ll be limited both walking and swinging, what about the possibility that Woods is actually going to be on a better health trajectory this year than he was in December 2020? His entire life is currently devoted to recovery. What if it all works?
We’ll find out how that progress is going this weekend.