A year almost to the day after his last round of competitive golf, Tiger Woods returned to the course, playing the first of two rounds at the PNC Championship in Orlando. Given how much Woods endured to get back to this point, it's not too much to say Woods' return is the sports version of a miracle.
Woods suffered catastrophic injuries to his leg and ankle in a February single-car wreck in which his car left a Los Angeles residential street doing twice the legal speed limit. The car flipped, and Woods had to be extricated by first responders. Weeks of hospitalization and months of physical therapy followed, and Woods has indicated on several occasions that he was in danger of losing his leg.
Fourth hole in and the putter raise comes out!
Charlie Woods is feeling it. pic.twitter.com/dykynVhfVQ
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 18, 2021
Woods made his return at the PNC Championship, the definition of a low-stakes event. Pairing 20 former major champions from the PGA Tour and LPGA with their relatives in a scramble format, the PNC is more a celebration of family and history than a competitive tournament. Woods traveled in a cart between shots, focusing primarily on his short game and putting.
But golf wasn't really the point here, and neither was a resurrection of Woods' career. The PNC gave Tiger a rare opportunity to play alongside son Charlie, and the two exhibited uncanny similarities on the course. From the way they twirled their clubs after solid shots to the way they plucked their tees out of the ground after drives to the way they reacted to long putts, father and son were mirror images of one another throughout the round.
Team Woods birdied four of the first five holes to start its round, and five of the first six to start the back nine. Tiger and Charlie finished the day at -10, three strokes off the clubhouse lead of Stewart Cink and son Reagan.
"It was awesome, a boatload of fun for all of us," Woods said after the round. "It just couldn't get much better than that."
After nearly a year of upper-body workouts, Woods looks more ready to fight supervillains than challenge St. Andrews. But he moved gingerly, even more so as the day wore on, and gently bent his knees, rather than dropping into a full crouch, when reading the greens. By the time he was walking off the 14th green, Woods was slightly but visibly limping, and he began grimacing hard after his final shots.
"I'm not in golf shape," Woods allowed afterward. "If you don't have the endurance, you start slowing down. It was nice to have a partner who hit drives like he did and made putts."
Woods has nothing to prove to anyone, not anymore. He's already endured 10 knee and back surgeries in his career. He could have used the wreck as an opportunity to retire from golf entirely, or could have put off whatever return he makes to some indeterminate point in the future. But he chose to put himself through a rehab regimen that's reopened opportunities and possibilities that seemed unimaginable in the hours and days after the wreck.
The days of Woods playing a full PGA Tour season are done; he's said as much himself. He'll be picking and choosing which events to play, and there will be some obvious limits even before considering the status of his game. Woods has already said he won't use a cart on the PGA Tour, and climbing the hills of Augusta National or the sandy rolls of Pinehurst for a full week are clearly beyond him at the moment.
Woods has spent the last few weeks tempering expectations of what lies ahead for him. Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors appears as safe as it ever has, for instance. But that's not the point; it's clear Woods will be able to return to the course one day, and given where he was in February, that's beyond all expectations.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.