ORLANDO, Fla. – When it comes to Tiger Woods and this week’s PNC Championship, expectations vary wildly.
Even in an event that Woods dubbed a “hit-and-giggle,” the threshold for success should be set low following February’s single-vehicle car crash that required multiple surgeries on Woods’ right leg. But for those who have been fortunate enough to see his latest comeback, there is a degree of caution with optimism.
“I played with him last week a couple days, one day, and Charlie,” said Mike Thomas, Justin Thomas’ father and partner this week. “It's crazy how good he's hitting it and how far he's hitting for what he's been through.”
Woods and his son Charlie finished in seventh place last year at the unofficial event, five strokes behind Justin and Mike Thomas who won the event. Thomas said he plays often with Charlie Woods when the two are at home in South Florida and he has been impressed with the 12-year-old’s swing as well as Tiger Woods’ recovery.
Woods didn’t play in a Tour event this year and few imagined a comeback could come this soon until he posted a video of his swing on social media last month. The speculation grew two weeks ago in the Bahamas at the Hero World Challenge when Woods was spotted hitting balls on the practice range on back-to-back days.
“My excitement level is high just for him being out here and being somewhere other than his house and getting to see a lot of familiar faces,” Justin Thomas said. “In terms of the competing, I think his expectations are very low. But at the same time, he is who he is for a reason, so I'm sure he'll be pissed off if he didn't play well.”
The highlight of last year’s PNC Championship was the play of Charlie Woods and his banter with both Mike and Justin Thomas. That, Justin Thomas said, changed after last year’s PNC Championship.
“I think he's starting to get old enough that you need to back up your trash talk a little bit better if you're going to be saying it,” Justin Thomas said. “Until they get that [winner’s] belt and we don't, I know that we have the bragging rights for the time being.”
Team Woods will be paired with Team Thomas on Day 1 at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for the second consecutive year, with the foursome scheduled to tee off at 12:18 p.m. (ET).