These days, Tiger Woods does not accomplish many firsts.
That’s what happens when you win 82 times and claim 15 major championships. You run out of firsts. Instead, the world adopts a modifier: ‘since’.
Your first win since, your first major since, your first missed cut since — you get the idea.
The world does a funny thing when someone has accomplished a lot of something — it begins to believe they have accomplished all of something. Peerless as he may be in his many achievements, did Tiger Woods weep, for there were no more worlds to conquer?
No. Tiger Woods underwent a spinal fusion, survived the yips, outlasted the field at Augusta National, and then he wept. For the worlds around him had seemed so inconquerable.
For Tiger Woods, there are always more worlds to conquer. There are always more firsts.
At this weekend’s PNC Championship, Tiger Woods did not accomplish a tournament first — not the way he usually thinks about them. No, he Tiger and his son Charlie did not win at the PNC Championship despite recording back-to-back 62s. In fact, they finished 7th, five strokes off the lead of Justin Thomas and his father, Mike.
By the margin with which the public tends to measure Tiger Woods’ professional life, the weekend was a failure. Woods and his 11-year-old son had thrust themselves into the spotlight and they’d come up empty.
But of course they hadn’t.
“I don’t think words can describe it,” Woods said. “Just the fact that we were able to have this experience together, Charlie and I, they are memories for a lifetime.”
Surely, these aren’t the words of the Tiger Woods we know.
But it was a hit-and-giggle, you’ll say.
But Tiger did not hesitate. Without an ounce of remorse in his voice, he spoke openly about the week as a win. His praise for his teammate bordered on effusive.
“Charlie did great,” he said. “It’s just like being at [home course] Medalist. Each shot is the same. Get into your own little world and hit the shot that you see, and then just execute.”
In discussing Charlie’s performance, his voice swelled with a father’s pride.
“We were harping on that in the entire run-up to this event, and that’s what he did,” Tiger said. “I’m just so proud of what he’s done and we did as a team.”
A year ago, the world witnessed its latest Tiger Woods first. As he celebrated his Presidents Cup victory, Tiger welled up in front of the camera under the weight of captaining one of golf’s rare collective accomplishments.
Standing in front of the camera in Orlando, his voice began to shake again.
“It was pure golf,” he said. “When it comes right down to it, it’s just he and I, we get into our own world, and we did that. To have big Joe and little Joe [LaCava] on the bag, it just kept our little world exactly like we planned it. Our little world.”
On Sunday, Tiger Woods accomplished a first even he might be surprised to admit.
He lost the tournament — but really, he won.