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It’s almost unbelievable that Tiger Woods is playing golf publicly again less than 10 months after he totaled his car and shattered his right leg in a devastating accident that we still know very little about.
Just a few months ago, conversation centered on the hope that Tiger would walk normally again. But play golf? That was a distant dream, and hardly important. Tiger was alive. Tiger would continue to recover. Perhaps someday he would be able to play golf with his son Charlie, now 12. That sounded wonderful, but very much in the future.
It turns out that moment wasn’t far away at all, but rather right around the corner. Tiger is playing golf again at the PNC Championship in Orlando this weekend, a fun, “hit and giggle” get-together pairing professionals with family members for a 36-hole “competition” that means nothing — until Tiger announced he was coming to tee it up with Charlie.
Now it means everything. Those of us who have covered Tiger, almost 46, for the length of his professional career learned long ago to never count him out of anything. But when you saw the photos of his wrecked vehicle lying on its side in the brush far off the road on that late February day in Southern California, and when you heard that he had to be rescued by the jaws of life, and when you found out that he suffered "comminuted open fractures affecting both the upper and lower portions of the tibia and fibula” in his right leg, you had to wonder: Could Tiger really come back from this?
We begin to find out this weekend. This is by no means the full comeback itself; this is just a start. It’s a light-hearted family outing in which Tiger can use a golf cart so he doesn’t have to walk the course, pick up his ball if he hits a bad shot and enjoy being back on a golf course with Charlie and their playing partners. The U.S. Open this is not.
— PNC Championship (@PNCchampionship) December 17, 2021
But if he is ever able to compete in a major tournament again, he will look back on this weekend as the moment he found out it was possible. Tiger talked last month about returning to play in the occasional tournament, but never again playing full time on tour. To compete in any tournaments, he will need to regain the stamina and ability to walk 72 holes, which is not an insignificant challenge.
TIGER AND SON: Photos of father and son from 2021 PNC Championship
HOW TO WATCH: Broadcast schedule for PNC Championship
There’s more than a hint of irony in the news that Tiger is likely to use a golf cart this weekend. When Casey Martin sued the PGA Tour 20 years ago for the right to use a cart during competition due to a circulation disorder in his right leg, the tour argued in court that walking was a crucial aspect of the game. Even though Martin and Woods were teammates at Stanford, Tiger deserted his old friend, siding with the tour.
So now he’s going to use a cart?
“I’m gonna give him crap,” Martin playfully told Sports Illustrated. “I’m going to text him: Hey, I’m pumped you’re playing, but I want some kickbacks if you take a cart.”
'CONCLUSIONS ARE MISGUIDED:' Tiger Woods crash investigation criticized by forensic experts
As Tiger goes public in a big way this weekend, he remains strangely silent in another. When he was asked about his accident in a press conference last month, he replied, “All those answers have been answered in the investigation, so you can read about all that there in the police report.”
That is untrue and Tiger knows it. All the questions — and the answers — have not been answered. While the Los Angeles County sheriff said that Woods showed no signs of impairment, we’ll have to take his word for it because no field sobriety test was ever administered, which is astounding considering that Woods was quoted in the police report as not remembering the crash and thinking he “was currently in the state of Florida.”
It was Woods’ third driving incident since 2009, when he was cited for careless driving after infamously crashing into a fire hydrant and tree in front of his home in Florida. A witness said Woods was unconscious at the scene, according to the police report. The accident triggered a stunning personal scandal that ended with Woods losing major endorsements and his marriage.
In 2017, police found Woods asleep at the wheel in Florida and arrested him for driving under the influence. Tests revealed he had five drugs in his system. Woods soon checked himself into a clinic to get help for his use of pain and sleep medications.
Then came February 23, 2021 and his terrifying accident, followed by weeks of lying in bed, longing to be outside in the sunshine, feeling the grass under his feet. Two hundred ninety eight days later, he's there.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tiger Woods' return to golf at PNC Championship is remarkable