Tiger Woods mania in full bloom at PNC: ‘He’ll win one other main’

After his newest begin, Padraig Harrington is a believer once more in Tiger Woods.

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Thursday on the PNC Championship is, presumably, not all that a lot totally different from some other Thursday on the Ritz Carlton Golf Membership.

Golfers roam the fairways and greens, zipping by in carts and slugging down halfway-house cocktails. Tee photographs vary from 315-yard heat-seeking missiles to 31-foot tops, and every thing in between. Congenial conversations are held between strangers who’ve been paired collectively for the event, which was the primary of two Professional-Ams to be contested earlier than this weekend’s 36-hole scramble.

Even the event appears afraid to infringe on the common operations of the membership. There are few logos, solely a handful of volunteers and a buildout that bears a more in-depth resemblance to a member-guest than a PGA Tour-sanctioned occasion. Even the road indicators — those that information guests to the correct entranceway and car parking zone — are few and much between.

Welcome to Thursday on the middle of the golf universe.

tiger and charlie woods fist bump

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It’s unusual to consider this event as something apart from a hit-and-giggle, which is all that it has been for the higher portion of its quarter-century existence. However even hit-and-giggles can appeal to the eye of the golf world once they embrace Tiger and Charlie Woods.

Tiger hasn’t even arrived but — his attendance is anticipated for Friday morning’s Professional-Am spherical — and but there may be little query that he has shaken the PNC to its core. Ever since Tiger confirmed up for the primary time in 2019, he remodeled the occasion from a sleepy Champions Tour retreat to the heartbeat {of professional} golf. Three years later, it appears the event continues to be figuring that out.

The enormity of this small Central Florida golf event has solely been amplified by the shortage of Woods’ taking part in appearances, which has dwindled to (a few of) the majors, the Hero, The Match and, now, the PNC. Today, December has turn out to be as vital a month as any for Woods, notably among the many diehards desirous to see if he can nonetheless regain his kind — a gaggle that apparently contains Padraig Harrington.

“He’s regarded good bodily. He regarded higher at The Match. So, you recognize, I’m not saying he ‘might be,’ I really imagine he shall be a hazard,” Harrington advised media on Thursday, citing Woods’ 175-mph-plus ball-speed numbers as proof of his continued restoration. “I feel he’ll win one other main. The way in which I checked out him, I genuinely assume he shall be in rivalry. If it’s a serious, he’s going to have an opportunity.”

Harrington, who loved a profession renaissance himself in 2022, is as considerate and technically savvy as any skilled golfer. When he says he believes in Woods’ capability, he means it. Nevertheless it’s additionally honest to marvel if Harrington discovered himself not less than partially underneath the gravitational pull of the Tiger Woods hype machine, which roared to life Thursday regardless of the damndest efforts of a rain-shortened pro-am.

“I’m so disillusioned that the World Cup Last is at on Sunday morning,” Harrington stated of the massive sport’s 10 a.m. ET begin. “I actually wished to be on mid-afternoon at 3 o’clock going up in opposition to the PNC Championship as a result of I feel Tiger may win over on the TV scores to the World Cup. That’s the distinction he’s made to golf.”

Harrington is way from the one sufferer of Tiger-mania on the PNC Championship. Tickets to this week’s occasion offered out far prematurely of Thursday’s opening day. Match organizers have constructed an overflow tent to deal with the onslaught of nationwide media who will quickly arrive. Whereas the on-course footprint stays small, the realm surrounding the clubhouse is stuffed with the form of tent metropolis usually saved for main championships.

“Nicely, in case you look behind us right here, there’s fairly much more infrastructure than there was 9 years in the past once we first performed on this factor,” Stewart Cink stated with a smile. “Tiger is his personal universe in the case of that. We’ve all identified that for a very long time.”

There isn’t any hiding from Tiger Woods on the PNC, strive as this event — or Woods himself — could. The machine has grown far past the capabilities of even the person as soon as answerable for it.

Sellout crowds are anticipated all through the weekend on the PNC Championship.

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“Every thing about Tiger on the golf course, it’s a totally different vibe than it was,” Harrington stated. “It was huge again then, however I don’t know, there’s an emotion to the group. They’re not simply excited in regards to the nice photographs, which is I feel what they might have been 15 years in the past, there’s a real emotion about it. It has modified. There’s little doubt about it. It’s a totally different emotional environment round it. In some ways, it’s larger.”

That form of atmosphere lends itself to hyperbole, particularly as Tiger’s profession has shifted from epic to mythic proportions. Over time, the machine has grown to care extra about believing in Tiger Woods’ greatness than it does about seeing it. And for so long as that’s the case, there shall be folks prepared to marvel if there’s yet one more second left in that crimson mock neck.

It’s not honest, after all. It by no means has been. To not Tiger, nor his rivals. This, it seems, is the nosebleed price of being the best.

“Everyone pays a worth for every thing they get in life,” Harrington stated. “The extra well-known you’re, the higher you’re doing, you’re going to should put up with that.”

Play ended early on Thursday afternoon, and at last, it appeared, the vitality on the golf course had shifted.

It was not a lazy Thursday on the Ritz — not with that climate approaching. The clouds had been black by the point the gamers returned to the clubhouse, and a foreboding wind pressed in opposition to the palms. Thunder boomed within the distance.

A storm was approaching, maybe in additional methods than one.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing tales for the web site and journal. He writes the Scorching Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and makes use of his broadcast expertise throughout the model’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse College, James — and evidently, his golf sport — continues to be defrosting from 4 years within the snow. Previous to becoming a member of GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Lengthy Island, the place he’s from. He might be reached at james.colgan@golf.com.