ORLANDO — The golf world breathlessly awaits Tiger Woods’ reappearance at this weekend’s PNC Championship. But before the PNC Championship, we get the PNC Championship’s two-part pro-am! On Thursday and Friday, the two-player teams assemble and pair up with sponsors to get ready for the weekend’s main event. Most of the teams, at least. Here are a few nuggets we’ve picked up about this week’s PNC prelude:
No Tiger on Thursday.
This makes plenty of sense. If Tiger Woods wants to come play your golf tournament, he has pretty significant bargaining power. If Tiger Woods wants to come play your golf tournament, he hasn’t played any form of competitive golf in a calendar year and is undergoing aggressive rehab from a horrifying car crash, you tell him he can play whatever pro-am events he damn well pleases.
It also makes sense given Woods’ physical limitations. He has stressed that endurance is among the limiting factors in his golf game right now and his range sessions feature far more pauses than they used to. There’s no need to force things with another practice round in the public eye.
Woods isn’t the only one missing from Thursday’s action; Justin Thomas and Tom Watson are sitting out, too. Three pros sit out Friday, too: Henrik Stenson, Nick Faldo and Rich Beem.
Bubba has a fill-in Pro-Am partner.
Bubba Watson is once again partnering with his father-in-law Wayne Ball for the PNC Championship itself. But in the pro-am pairings he is listed with a different teammate: Angie Watson, his wife. She’ll play alongside Bubba at 10:20 a.m. Thursday and 8:40 a.m. Friday, though it’s possible Wayne will be in one of those groups, too. We’ll see if Angie puts the pressure on her dad to step aside for the weekend if her game gets hot.
Tiger and Charlie will play together in Friday’s Pro-Am.
According to the Pro-Am tee times, Woods is playing alongside someone from his own generation on Friday: Matt Kuchar! Woods and Kuchar are scheduled to go off the first tee at 9 a.m. Friday.
At first glance that makes it seem like the Charlie Woods Show will be on hold until Saturday. But after consulting with Tour staff I understood the listings better: Other participants are split up from their playing partners, but participants playing with younger sons will stay with their sons in the pro-am. That includes Tiger and Charlie Woods, Henrik and Karl Stenson and Matt and Cameron Kuchar, the three youngest participants in the field.
To maximize pro-am groups, many of the players in the field are split up — Nelly Korda and her father Petr will each play with their own group, for example. After nine holes, they’ll swap foursomes so their group of ams gets to play nine with each participant. Team Woods, Team Kuchar and Team Stenson will stay together, though.
You can see the Pro-Am tee times here:
There will be TV coverage. Lots of it!
You can learn all about the extensive PNC TV coverage here, which runs from 12:30-6 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Sunday.
But this year there’s Pro-Am coverage, too! Live coverage! NBC Sports released its broadcast schedule on Wednesday, which included a two-hour slot from 12:30-2:30 p.m. for PNC Pro-Am coverage. What does that look like? How does one cover a pro-am? Will there be scoring?
Golf Central will also be on site Thursday through Sunday, with Rich Lerner, Brandel Chamblee, John Cook and Todd Lewis providing some in-person color. That’s a high-wattage crew turning out for what has exhaustively been referred to as a hit-and-giggle. Their coverage will start at 11:30 a.m. on Friday.
It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to settle here: This year’s PNC will draw record eyeballs. The organizers know it, the broadcast partners know it and PNC knows it, too.