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Will Tiger Woods Play the PNC Championship? Let's Hope Not

The danger far outweighs the benefits, writes Morning Read's Mike Purkey, whose not buying that Tiger is close to being able to play golf less than a year from the February car accident.
Tiger Woods plays the 2020 Masters.

Tiger Woods plays the 2020 Masters.

Editor's note: It's official. Tiger says he'll play the 2021 PNC Championship.

While Tiger Woods has a shameful record for being reckless with his personal life, you can’t accuse him of taking unnecessary, even dangerous chances where it concerns his body as it comes back from injury. 

Whatever dalliance Tiger is having with playing in the PNC Championship next week, surely someone with unfettered access to Woods’ ear will convince him it’s an idea bordering on, well, reckless.

So, before you go all breathless about the likelihood or even the possibility of Tiger playing next weekend, inhale slowly, breathe deeply and consider harsh reality. He’s 9-½ months removed from a car crash that could have easily taken his life and apparently, the odds were only slightly in his favor to keep his right leg, in which the tibia and fibula were pulverized, from being amputated. Doctors, even some who were treating him, feared he might not walk normally again, if at all.

"I have so far to go … I’m not even at the halfway point," Woods said last week. "I have so much more muscle development and nerve development that I have to do in my leg. At the same time, as you know, I’ve had five back operations. So, I'm having to deal with that."

Yet, there he was, blowing up social media with swing videos. The first one was him hitting a wedge posted to his official account Nov. 21. “Making progress,” was the caption. 

Then, last week at the Hero World Challenge, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation, a video was posted of him hitting 3-woods at the back of the driving range. 

A day later, he appeared in another video, this time hitting drivers.

None of the swings were much more than half-speed but the videos switched on the speculation machine, which was humming at full tilt by Sunday afternoon.

"It just doesn’t go as far," Tiger said on the Hero telecast over the weekend after he was test driving. "The power’s not there, but yeah, I can hit drivers. I can hit any club in the bag, it’s just — I’m not to the point where I can hear it land. So, I’m OK." He was joking, making fun of his lack of distance, in case you’re wondering.

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"Does it feel like a risk when you make a swing?" NBC’s David Feherty asked.

"It has before, but if I go at it at what I would say like my old speed, yes, it is," Woods said.

The truth is that Woods despises the thought of being out of the conversation. For all his apparent reclusiveness — his yacht is named “Privacy” — being the center of the golf universe is Tiger’s oxygen. Why do you think he allowed himself to be recorded hitting balls? If golf people are talking, Woods wants the topic to be him, even if it’s just guessing.

"Playing hit-and-giggle golf, it’s easy," Tiger said cryptically at his press conference last Tuesday in the Bahamas, leading viewers to believe that the PNC qualifies as hit-and-giggle. "You can slap it around, hop in a cart and do whatever. Play nine holes, six holes, pick up, whatever, hit a bad shot, eh, I’ll hit another one, no big deal. But playing Tour golf and being prepared to play and try and shoot scores against the best players on the toughest golf courses then that’s a totally different deal. And I am a long way away from that. So, don’t expect me to be out there at the Tour level for quite some time."

A few holes at home with his buddies while he’s recovering might be reasonable to expect.

However, it seems beyond the realm of realism to believe that Woods would play golf in front of a gallery and millions of television viewers and look like a dollar-store version of his old self. His endless ego and pride wouldn’t stand for that for a single televised minute.

Even knowing the risks and potential consequences, Tiger is still allowing people to think that he might tee it up next weekend. He doesn’t have to hit every tee shot; his son Charlie, who would be his partner, has a sizable advantage from his tees. Tiger can ride in a cart and drive it right up next to the green. It’s only 36 holes and it’s a scramble.

But he would be out on the course for more than four hours each day, standing for a considerable amount of time — on one good leg. He said last week that when his leg becomes fatigued, he has to “shut it down.”

The risks far outweigh the benefits. Besides, it would appear there’s only one benefit and it’s not Charlie’s opportunity to play in the PNC. If Tiger does something, even accidentally — stepping into an unseen hole or a sprinkler head — that causes damage to his fragile leg, not only could golf be out of his future but a normal life, as well.

And Charlie wouldn’t be able to play in the PNC until he has a 12-year-old son or daughter.

As far as the future is concerned, Woods probably will play Augusta in April. It will be the Par-3 Contest. Not the Masters. 

The smart money never bets against Tiger — unless he commits a foolish act that would result in sabotage. He’s done it before. Just not to his precious golf game.