Charlie’s dagger at Tiger, Justin Thomas the reporter, PNC reflections
Hello, friends, and welcome to the final edition of PNC Championship-focused Rogers Reports. I write to you all from the floor of Orlando International Airport, snacking on an Auntie Anne’s pretzel. Despite me running on a few hours of sleep and less-than nutritious meals all week, my heart could not be more full. I got to meet so many people at the PNC: players, caddies, family friends, media and fans. I will get sappy only once in this column, and here it is: I think I might be the luckiest gal alive. Not only because I just had an incredible 2022 work-trip finale at the PNC, but because my BeReal went off at the perfect moment Sunday morning. I’d like to take a moment to thank whoever runs this App for being on my side.
When I arrived to the course this morning, I dropped my backpack off at the media center and hustled over to the range. This may be a fun family event, but the vibes were definitely more serious Sunday. Major championship or exhibition event, these pros want to win.
Somehow, I secured a position as the official rope-lifter for players and caddies as they made their way from the chipping area to the range. Tiger Woods thanked me twice, but really it was my pleasure. There was no way I’d allow a Bryson-rope incident on my watch.
While the Thomases and Charlie Woods hit balls, Tiger was fixated on the new water bottle that caddie Joe LaCava had put in his bag.
“What the hell is this?”
Apparently it was some high-technology water bottle that uses LED light to clean itself.
On Saturday, JT joked with the media that everyone was there to watch his dad, who was next to Charlie, warm up. He came armed with another joke on Sunday. Someone inside the ropes was sporting a red shirt, and Thomas commented, “Looks like you guys are rooting for someone in particular today. Isn’t that funny?” He may not be Max Homa on Twitter, but JT is definitely witty.
I (along with 3,500 others) made my way to the first tee to watch the final group tee off and ended up standing next to someone who does security at golf events. “Is it 10-times harder to control the crowds when Tiger’s playing?” I asked. “Probably 15,” he said without missing a beat. I realized I hadn’t ever really considered all that goes into preparing for Tigermania. On television, it looks like a one-man show sometimes. Two, counting LaCava. But there were about a dozen people I met this week whose job it was to make sure things went smoothly with Tiger. Crowd-control, lunch delivery, video, photography, carts, you name it.
I’d also never met anyone on Tiger’s team before this week. I always thought of his entourage as an exclusive clique that sported red on Sundays and kept their heads down. I met LaCava and Tiger’s right-hand man, Rob McNamara, and they were as nice as they come. Behind the “Tiger bubble” is a group of people just like anyone else (surprise!). The only difference? They’ve got a 15-time major champion in their circle.
Tiger’s daughter, Sam, was there again Sunday. She and her friends sported red and black Lululemon attire and hung back outside the ropes. Sam’s friends were standing closer to the ropes than she was the few times I saw her. I’m not sure how many people in the crowd noticed she was there. She kept the lowest of profiles while her brother and dad captured the attention of every person on the premises.
I’ve always wondered why Tiger ignores autograph requests. Justin Thomas did the opposite, explaining that he doesn’t sign during rounds. He must’ve said it 15 times throughout the day, and it suddenly dawned on me that it’s probably a lot easier not to even engage with the requests. Tiger would be talking all day if he replied to every ask.
And now for some hard-hitting journalism: Tiger didn’t go with his signature peanut butter and banana sandwich Sunday. He had what looked like ham and cheddar cheese. And because I know you’re all wondering, I went with a chicken caesar salad wrap and Fritos for the third consecutive day.
Post round: Charlie’s jokes
On to my absolute favorite part of the day (and possibly entire week): the post-round hang. Between signing their scorecards and their post-round pressers, there were a few minutes of relaxation for Team Thomas and Team Woods. Tiger immediately made his way to JT’s dog, Frank, who had no idea he’s gained the affection of an 82-time PGA Tour champion. What a life!
Then came Team Woods’ presser. I made it a goal to ask the players some questions this week. I’ve chickened out a few times before, but there was no time for that at the PNC Championship. And I’m glad I spoke up, because Charlie and Tiger gave awesome answers when I asked what they learned about each other’s games this week.
“Yesterday, that’s the best he’s ever played in a while,” Charlie said. “And that kind of shocked me a little bit.”
Tiger’s reply was perfect. “Yeah, I used to be good.”
There are exactly two people on the planet who are allowed to take shots at Tiger like that, and those are his children. Kudos to Charlie for taking full advantage of that right on a national stage. But Charlie wasn’t done joking around. Justin Thomas snuck over to a microphone and asked Charlie for a background story of the Snoopy hat he rocked all week.
Charlie gave the most Tiger Woods answer I’ve ever heard. “Well, it’s the hat that was in my closet and fits the best, and that’s all I can say about it.” I got flashbacks to Tiger’s presser at the Hero World Challenge when he was asked when exactly he had surgery. Tiger smiled and said “this year.” The man reacts quickly, especially when he doesn’t want to give too much information away. It’s safe to say Charlie takes after him not only on the golf course, but in that sense as well. Tiger looked at him approvingly and said “great answer.”
Looking at the Woods’ boys reaction to the question, I can’t help but think there’s a lot more to this story that the public will never know.
I will leave you all with this photo of the broadcast that I received from a handful of friends. Charlie was going to work on a putt while I was going to work on a package of DunkAroos from Wawa. Safe to say we both had a good day.