Woods, Star-Packed Field Raise Buzz for Quail Hollow
It is not a surprise.
Woods, who came back from his five-month absence and finished in a tie for fourth earlier this month at Augusta, has enjoyed plenty of past success during four previous appearances on the Quail Hollow Club course. He won here in 2007, finished fourth last year, tied for third in 2004 and tied for 11th in 2005. Only two of Woods' 16 career rounds on the course have not produced par or better, and seven scores have been in the 60s.
But that's only a part of an inviting comfort zone.
The tournament's pro-am on Wednesday matches the pros with only two amateur partners instead of a typical foursome. And look who Woods has managed to be paired with in the past: Last year he teamed with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Charlotte banker and Quail Hollow club president Johnny Harris, also an Augusta National member. In 2007 Woods played in the pro-am with former NBA star and good buddy Michael Jordan.
If Augusta National and its history of proper fan behavior was the perfect spot for Woods to return and not face an ugly scene, Charlotte might be next up.
"We'll know more by Friday or Saturday," tournament director Kym Hougham said. "We'll have to see what the reaction is. But we have faith in the people of Charlotte that we are pretty respectful and knowledgeable about golf. The players have told us that for years -- this is a very good gallery and [they] understand quality shots."
Nevertheless, there is added security and extra precaution in place this week.
"So, of course there are concerns or we would not have changed anything," Hougham said. "We've modified some things we've done in the past, but with the field we notoriously get, we always have a strong security plan."
The tournament field does have plenty of star power, attracting four of the top five and 11 of the top 16 on the World Golf Rankings.
Masters champ Phil Mickelson along with Lee Westwood, Jim Furyk, Padraig Harrington, Geoff Ogilvy and rookie Rickie Fowler are among the headliners.
But, the big buzz is being generated by Woods.
Already close to a sellout before Woods committed, the event will now have a packed house. But the attraction is more than just bodies.
"The buzz around the city about the golf tournament really got going," Hougham said. "We got the (NBA) playoff going on. There was so much going on in Charlotte, we were all starting to melt together. Once he committed, we were the talk of the town."
There will be plenty to listen in on.
Woods is scheduled for a Wednesday afternoon press conference, and just as it was at the Masters, press seating will be limited. The number of reporters each news outlet can have in the room will be restricted. Also, there will be additional limits on the number of media allowed inside the ropes to follow Woods' group.
And in another media development of interest, after Woods committed the event two weeks ago, television celebrity news shows "Inside Edition" and "Extra" requested media credentials to cover the event, but were denied because their applications came post-deadline.
This week's Quail Hollow Championship has attracted one of the best fields of the season to one of the most popular tournament stops on tour.
You might think that would be enough to make a sponsor beam.
Not in these days of financial-institution bailouts and image concerns.
The Charlotte event built an impressive profile from 2003 through 2008 as the Wachovia Championship. But after Wachovia was taken over by Wells Fargo post-TARP, the event's new owner has chosen to keep its sponsorship involvement as low-key as possible.
Wells Fargo inherited the tournament's sponsorship and is spending a reported $6.5 annually to live up to its contract obligation that runs through 2014, but does not want its name on the event.
"I do not know that the title sponsor does not want its name used," Hougham said. "I think that the situation dictated that they didn't have in on for now. They are using everything at this golf course they get within their contract. So they are engaged with us. The only difference is, it states in their contract, they can name it whatever they want."
SOMEBODY HAS TO DO IT
Stewart Cink and Angel Cabrera get the short straw this week as opening-rounds playing partners with Woods -- never an easy task even during simpler times.
But they can take heart from K.J. Choi, who ended up matching Woods on all four rounds at the Masters and actually thrived. Choi shared fourth place with Woods.
"I think what I learned the most is being able to adapt to that atmosphere where you have so much gallery which is rooting so much," Choi said. " What a player feels when you're playing with Tiger in that environment, the entire hole is just surrounded with all these galleries, you know, thousands of people.
"I think playing with Tiger for those four days helped me adapt more to that situation. In that environment, a lot of the players are going to feel intimidated. They're going to probably lose focus."
TIM TEBOW WOULD HAVE LANDED HIM
Fans at last week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans were treated to an entertaining show. The golf was pretty good, also.
A pair of wildlife trappers had to be called to TPC Louisiana during Saturday afternoon's play when a 10-foot alligator that makes his home in a lake next to the 17th hole began displaying aggressive behavior after spectators threw him food.
The trappers were able to snag the three-legged creature, known to course regulars as "Tripod,'' but could not pull him to shore. When Tripod broke the line, fans around the hole started chanting, "Let's go, gators!"
After his escape, Tripod remained in the center of the lake and was still on hand for Sunday's final round.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"I used to know how to read and write, now I can't even write my name in Korean. It is actually a foreign language to me now.
"There weren't that many Korean people in Oklahoma, so it got rusty, and now living in Dallas it's not much better. But I did want to tell them in Korean that I felt very grateful to be there and appreciate the support."
-- Korean-American and former University of Oklahoma golfer Anthony Kim on addressing fans last week during a tournament appearance in Korea.
• With his win Sunday in New Orleans, Jason Bohn became the third wire-to-wire PGA Tour winner this year. Previously Ryan Palmer (Sony Open, Hawaii) and Dustin Johnson (AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am) performed the feat.
• Jim Furyk, a two-time winner so far this season, has an interesting career record at Quail Hollow. He seems to either contend or play miserably. In six appearances at the event he hasn't played on the weekend twice. Along with winning in 2006, Furyk tied for second in 2005, was seventh in 2008 and tied for 11th in 2009. Two other years he has missed the cut. In 20 career rounds at the Quail Hollow Championship, Furyk has only shot over-par three times. Eight of his 16 rounds are in the 60s.
• World No. 3 Steve Stricker (pictured right), who withdrew last week at New Orleans with an injured right clavicle, has been told by his doctor not to touch a golf club for several weeks.
He is skipping this week's stop in Charlotte, and is questionable for next week's Players Championship.
"It's just swollen and sore," Stricker said. They're telling me a couple weeks before I even touch a club. It just needs rest."
When Lorena Ochoa last week announced retirement plans, it came three years to the day after she first took over the world No. 1 women's ranking.
That fact was not lost on the 28-year-old Mexican sports hero.
"I always said that I wanted to play for some years, around 10 years," Ochoa said. "And what I wanted to do is achieve my goals and to be the No. 1 player in the world. Retiring today or being at the top, you know, today is my anniversary for three years of being at the top in the Rolex World Rankings."
Ochoa, who married last year, did, however, leave the door slightly open for some future appearances. She said she will host her tournament in Guadalajara in November and indicated she would be open to accepting some sponsor invitations.
"This does not mean I am going to stop playing golf," she said. "I am going to keep in shape. While I will not be an active member of the LPGA, I will play my tournament as hostess and perform for my sponsors."