2021 PNC Championship scores: Tiger Woods, son Charlie thrill in golf's most unexpectedly fun day this year
Team Woods made 11 straight birdies in a spectacular final round in Orlando, but came up just short
An exhibition in the middle of December – with no major championships nor significant professional events anywhere in sight – nearly turned into the golf tournament of the year.
At the PNC Championship in Orlando on Sunday, John Daly and his son, John Daly II, finished at 27 under in a scramble format to beat Tiger Woods and his son, Charlie, by two strokes. Both teams shot 57 in the final round, and Team Woods nearly pulled off one of the more improbable wins of the last few years by closing with 11 birdies in their last 12 holes.
After shooting 10-under 62 on Saturday in Round 1, Team Woods started birdie-birdie-eagle on Sunday to go 4 under on the day through the first three holes. Three pars followed before they started filling it up like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson on a mid-April evening in San Francisco. The father-son duo birdied at No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9 to tally a front nine of 29 and take some momentum heading to the back.
They ham-and-egged their way to six straight birdies to start the second nine as well, hitting most of their approaches close to the pin and making every single one that wasn't. Soon it became clear that Charlie and his dad were one of the handful of teams with a real chance of winning the 24th edition of this tournament in a week when simply showing up was worthy of celebration.
Even though dad's game looked improbably good throughout the two-day run, Charlie took over late. On No. 16, the younger Woods hit his approach right of a right pin with water on the right side. He made that putt for a 10th birdie in a row. Then, he took his tee shot on the par-3 17th left of a left pin with water on the left. He made that putt as well, giving the Woods family eleven straight birdies, a new tournament record, with a par-5 coming at the last.
The famous duo in red and black walked up the 18th together – a rarity in a week in which Tiger was mostly in a cart to preserve the health of his right leg – but made par there to finish with that 57 and 25-under total, which they knew wouldn't be enough. Tiger said afterward that they thought they'd have to birdie every hole on the back nine ... and they nearly did.
"Charlie was hitting the ball unbelievable," Tiger told NBC through a chuckle. Their 57 was one off the overall tournament record of 56.
Tiger was clearly impressed with his own son's game down the stretch. Its always jarring to see masters of craft in awe of other people's performances, but it's even more so when one has grown up in the other's home.
This was deserved, though. Tiger was great, and his performance in the wake of that car accident in February that nearly left him with a prosthetic for a right leg will be discussed for several months leading into the 2022 Masters, but Charlie stole the show.
I know Tiger has been absent for a while, but I do wonder how it feels to look at the best to ever do it and tell him to get on your back as you try to drag a 56 to the house. Charlie looked, reacted and performed like he'd done it a thousand times before. It was startling to watch him do what so many of us have done over the last quarter of a century – emulate Tiger Woods on a golf course – with far more success while Tiger himself was looking on (and contributing).
While they didn't pull off what would have been perhaps the low-key victory of the year -- again, at an exhibition event in December! -- and Tiger's grin-and-bear-it look at the very end spoke volumes about how badly he wanted it for their family, there was still a ton of gratitude from Team Woods.
"I'm happy and thankful that I'm able to do this," Tiger told NBC. "I still have my own leg, which was questionable for a while. And it's functioning. I'm just really tired. I'm not used to this. I think this might be my fourth or fifth round of golf the year. I'm a little worn out."
Even as recently as two weeks ago, it seemed like a fantasy that we would see Woods at a golf tournament in 2021. After nearly losing his right leg, he was invisible to the golf world for most of the last 10 months. He resurfaced a few weeks ago at the Hero World Challenge, where he encouraged everyone to set their expectations for his future as low as possible. I think we may have been hoodwinked. Tiger labored at times throughout the two days, but he looked far better than anyone reasonably imagined he would.
John Daly is – and this is not hyperbole – one of the most popular golfers of all time. He dressed as Santa Claus at a tournament dinner earlier this week and is releasing a country music album in the near future. This is the type of event that, with a win, he would normally own. But nobody is even talking about him. And the man who upstaged him may have himself been upstaged by his own son.
Thirty-six straight holes of hammered cutting drivers, flushed irons and 12-footer after 12-footer made by dueling Scotty Camerons begs just one question, one I'm sure dad and son will be asking on their trek back home on Sunday evening.
It's a question that I'm not sure 15 majors or all the money in the world can answer better than 36 holes with your kid can. After all that Tiger has been through this year, a life that has seemingly contained multiple careers and a joyful hug with your 12-year old at the end of the week, the question nearly presents itself.
Does golf possibly get any more fun than this?
Team Daly wins with a birdie at the last. What a last few hours of this tournament! Team Woods officially finishes second, two back of the Dalys.
Par at the last for Team Woods to shoot 57. They're going to lose by one or two, which is a bummer after such an incredible run on the second nine.
Charlie just made a birdie on his own ball on No. 17. Took one between the water and the pin on the left side of the green. They're at -25, tied with Team Daly. Unreal. Playing the last right now.
Charlie makes the birdie putt at No. 16 to get to -24. Team Daly on the 15th at -25. They're not super close there, which means Tiger and Charlie have an opening.
Charlie hits one tight on No. 16, and Team Woods has a birdie putt to make it 10 in a row and get within one of Team Daly again.
Nine straight birdies for Tiger and Charlie. Incredibly, they're -23 thru 33 holes. After the drive on No. 16, though, Tiger grips at his right leg a bit. Not a great sign, but not unexpected. They're one back of Team Daly.