VERONA, New York - Hunter Mahan and Cristie Kerr combined to win the Notah Begay Challenge charity event on Wednesday, and Tiger Woods was at least smiling as his pairing came in third.
Mahan and Kerr shot an 11-under 61 in the best-ball format event, coming in a stroke ahead of Annika Sorenstam and Rickie Fowler. Woods and LPGA Tour star Suzann Pettersen were third, two strokes off the pace.
“Oh Lord. It’s going to be one of those days,” Woods said before the round after Notah Begay III, his college roommate, promised some trash-talking as they prepared to play.
It was one of those days, all right, with Pettersen doing much of the heavy lifting for Woods.
“She played great,” Woods said about Pettersen. “She definitely carried me.”
Woods, who has played only eight PGA Tour events this year because of injuries to his left knee and left Achilles’ tendon, started the day with a perfect drive that set up a nice birdie at the par-4 opening hole, smiling broadly as fans shouted his name.
The shouts of encouragement never waned as Woods made his way around the course, but his game didn’t approach the performance he put on here two years ago. With more than 3,000 awestruck fans watching his every move, Woods hit nearly every fairway and won three of the final four holes in a skins game format to beat Camilo Villegas in 2009.
“It was all right today,” Woods said. “I’ve been hurt the majority of the year and haven’t quite gotten to be able to (get) the reps that I need to do what (swing coach) Sean (Foley) wants me to do. We were right on track at Augusta, but unfortunately I got hurt there and then it was a huge setback. We’re just trying to get back to where I was at Augusta, and it’s coming around. I just need more reps.”
Begay said he liked much of what he saw in Woods’ performance.
“I saw enough good things to know that he’s making some progress,” Begay said. “It was nice to be out there with him.”
Begay received a check for $500,000 for his foundation and said he hoped to be able to surpass $1 million after an auction.
The event is the chief fundraiser for Begay’s foundation, which is dedicated to helping fight obesity and diabetes in the Native American community.
It’s a cause close to Woods’ heart.
“I can relate to this because my father went through it,” Woods said. “My father developed type-2 diabetes. It’s tough to watch someone go through that, and what Notah’s trying to do is cut that off. I want to be here for that. To be here and have the opportunity to do this, it’s an honor.”