Woods is playing golf for the first time since his car crash in Los Angeles in February that severely damaged his right leg.
ORLANDO, Fla – Tiger Woods stepped off the tee for a routine pro-am round on Friday and felt an unexpected dose of nerves, realizing how long he had been without an audience on the golf course.
The small stand behind the tee was packed, everyone was standing. Spectators filled every inch behind the ropes for 95 yards on the left side of the hole. It was another must-see moment involving Woods in far different circumstances.
Ten months after Woods broke his right leg in a car crash in suburban Los Angeles, he was back in the PNC Championship golf course with his 12-year-old son, Charlie.
Tiger Woods again? Far from there.
Even so, the footage from February 23 of his crumpled SUV and seeing him in golf gear on Friday making full strokes and putts were no less remarkable.
âI didn’t hit too many tee shots and thenâ¦ all of a sudden there are people out of the teeing ground,â said Woods. âIt was a great day. It was just great to be back playing and being with my son. And we just had an absolute blast.
They are the star attraction of the 36-hole event which brings together parents and children, just like last year, with a big difference. A year ago, there was huge appeal for the young son of the 15-time major champion.
Now everything revolves around the father.
Nearly two dozen media, mostly cameras, waited along the circular driveway and lifted their gear whenever a car approached the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando. Woods cheated on them again, entering the parking lot, as usual.
He stopped hitting full shots in the last six holes, and he didn’t have a lot of power on the tee shots he hit. It was to be expected. As he said two weeks ago in the Bahamas, competing in a real event at the highest level is a long way off.
âIt’s just not that powerful,â Woods said. âI can’t generate the speed that I used to and the body isn’t what it used to be. Obviously, it’s been a bit bumped up this year. And slowly but surely, I did. will get to where the speed starts to return and I can start hitting the shots that I see that just don’t quite go off.
There were positive signs. After his opening practice, he leaned with all of his weight over his damaged right leg to remove the tee. Sometimes he walked with a determined step. And sometimes his walk was slower and more measured.
Woods walked from the back tee to the front tee for his son to use, then got on a cart he can use for a 20-team event that features Gary Player, 86, and the former’s 11-year-old son. British Open champion Henrik Stenson.
The Masters is four months away. Augusta National is the most difficult walk that Woods faces even in healthy years.
âI couldn’t walk on this golf course even right now, and it’s flat,â said Woods. “I don’t have the stamina. My leg isn’t quite straight yet, and that will take a while. I’m a long way from golfing in tournaments. It’s hitting, riding a cart and going. to my occupations.
âTo be able to play tournament golf and be able to recover, practice, practice and hit balls after a game and do whatever I need to be at a high level, I am far away. “
He went to the booth at the end of his pro-am round, first as a spectator. Charlie dropped a bag of balls and started hitting corners. Woods slowly sat down on the grass, leaning against the back of a cart, and raised his right knee.
Soon after, he slowly got up and hit corners side by side with Charlie, then they moved to a bunker for practice. It was light and easy, which is about all Woods is capable of handling at the moment.
Woods plays in the final group on Saturday with Justin Thomas and his father, the defending champions.
Woods and his son were seventh last year, then Woods underwent a fifth lower back surgery that delayed the start of his season. Then his season and almost his career ended when his SUV which police estimated to be at least 84 mph crashed into a median on a twisty road and rolled down a hill.
And now he’s playing golf again in a family event with major champions, in a cart. But that’s golf. When asked if he was surprised to be back so soon, Woods replied, “Yes and no.”
It seemed unlikely when he was immobilized for three months in a makeshift hospital bed in his home when his primary assignment was to walk alone.
Getting to his point was no accident.
âWe worked every day,â he said. âEven on the days when I wasn’t feeling very well, we were still working on something. There has never been a day off other than three months in bed.
Where it leads remains unknown. For now, he was happy to play with his son, his first appearance this year on network television with a golf club in his hands.