Tiger Woods still has one tournament left this year that might feel as big as any to him.
The PNC Championship announced Thursday that Woods will play with 11-year-old son Charlie in the tournament that has paired major champions with their sons since 1995, the year before the 44-year-old Woods turned pro.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be playing with Charlie in our first official tournament together,” Woods said. “It’s been great watching him progress as a junior golfer, and it will be incredible playing as a team together in the PNC Championship.”
The PNC Championship is Dec. 19-20 at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando in central Florida.
The most television exposure Charlie received was last year at Augusta National when Woods wrapped his son in his arms after winning the Masters for the fifth time, completing a comeback from four back surgeries. It was his 15th major, but the first his son saw him win.
Woods has caddied for his son in junior events, and one moment that got plenty of attention was the father of another junior trying to capture video of Woods, with Charlie and his smooth swing in the background.
Woods wrapped up his official year with an eventful Sunday in the Masters. He was well out of contention when he took a 10 on the par-3 12th hole, and then followed with five birdies over his last six holes.
The PNC Championship, the brainchild of longtime IMG executive Alastair Johnston, has gone through several iterations over the years to try to keep current with the times.
It allowed Fuzzy Zoeller to play with his daughter, Gretchen, and Arnold Palmer to play with his grandson, Sam Saunders. One year it had Aaron Stewart play with Paul Azinger after the boy’s father, Payne Stewart, died in a plane crash. Annika Sorenstam is playing with her father, Tom.
Added to the field this year is Justin Thomas playing with his father, longtime Kentucky club pro Mike Thomas.
For Johnston, having Woods agree to play took him back to a joke that became reality. They were next-door neighbors in villas at Isleworth when Woods turned pro in 1996 and signed with IMG.
The next year, in his Masters debut as a pro, Woods broke 20 records on his way to a 12-shot victory, a watershed moment in golf on so many levels and the start of the first big wave of Tigermania.
Johnston ran into Woods a few days after that Masters for a different variety of congratulations.
“I had a big grin on my face,” Johnston said. “I said, ‘You’ve just qualified to play in the Father-Son.’ He looked very bemused by the fact.”
It took 23 years, but Woods is playing.
Johnston began dropping hints through people close to Woods a few years ago, and Woods sounded interested. Among the questions Woods had was the age of other children. Johnston said sons of Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer each played at about the same age.
It probably helps that the PNC Championship will not have spectators because of the COVID-19 pandemic, though Johnston figures Woods would not put his son on a public stage unless he felt he could handle it.
The tournament is televised by NBC.
Woods is the biggest draw in golf, and Johnston’s idea for the PNC Championship when it started was to entertain golf fans curious about how the sons of major champions played.
In an interview with GolfTV this summer, Woods spoke about his son’s passion for golf.
“I’m still winning — for now,” Woods said. “He’s starting to get into it. He’s starting to understand how to play. He’s asking me the right questions. I’ve kept it competitive with his par, so it’s been just an absolute blast to go out there and just be with him. It reminds me so much of me and my dad.”
Earl Woods always made sure his son asked him to play, and Woods is taking the same approach with his own son.
“I wanted it at a very, very early age,” Woods said. “I wanted to compete and play in this game. That’s on him — whether he wants it or not.”
Langer, Raymond Floyd and Larry Nelson have won multiple times with different sons. Players must have won a major or The Players Championship, and their partner must not hold a PGA Tour card.
Others in the field include John Daly, Greg Norman, Nick Price, Lee Trevino and Gary Player, with one player still to be announced for the 20-team field. The format is a 36-hole scramble, and the winner gets the Willie Park Trophy.
Until deciding to play in the PNC Championship, it was thought Woods ended the year at the Masters. The Hero World Challenge he hosts in the Bahamas, scheduled for Dec. 3-6, was canceled because of travel issues linked to the pandemic.