Out of golf for five months until the Masters, Tiger Woods is waiting only two weeks to tee it up again.
Woods announced Thursday he will play the Quail Hollow Championship, which begins April 29. It will be his first time playing at a tournament where tickets are sold to the general public since his spectacular downfall from a sex scandal.
Woods tied for fourth last week at the Masters, which has the most controlled gallery in golf. Weekly badges are secured months in advance, and fans fear losing them if caught showing poor etiquette. Woods received warm applause when he teed off in the first round, and the support was steady throughout the week.
Kym Hougham, tournament director for the Charlotte event, said they’ve been preparing for Woods’ possible participation for some time, and will need to make only slight tweaks with security plans.
Hougham doesn’t expect Woods to run into problems from hecklers at Quail Hollow Club.
“I think our crowds are very respectful and they always have been. The players have always told us that,” Hougham said. “If there is inappropriate behaviour, we’ll act on it swiftly. I’m sure that if Tiger didn’t feel we could handle it he wouldn’t be coming here.”
The early commitment was a sign that Woods plans to be helpful to the promotion of tournaments. He had been criticized over the years for waiting until the last day to announce he was playing, except for tournaments to which he had a sponsorship connection.
The commitment deadline for Quail Hollow is April 23.
“It’s going to be a huge benefit for the people who have been waiting to buy tickets,” Hougham said. “Ironically, our Saturday daily tickets sold out yesterday. Friday and Sunday are not far behind, so this will probably put us over the top, which we’re excited about. The economy has made people change their buying habits and people are waiting longer.”
Woods has played the Quail Hollow Championship four times, winning in 2007. He finished fourth last year, two shots behind Sean O’Hair.
But his return will be unlike his other visits after his Nov. 27 car crash near his home led to salacious details about his infidelity.
Tournament media director Lee Patterson said the media credential request deadline was April 2, and there were at 72 outlets on Thursday. Patterson said they’ll make room for reporters with PGA Tour national badges.
What about others, such as celebrity magazines and tabloids?
“We’ll try the best we can,” he said. “At some point, I’ll be maxed out.”
It’s uncertain what Woods’ pre-tournament plans will be, and how often he’ll be available to the media.
Last year, Woods spoke to reporters in Charlotte after playing in the Wednesday pro-am with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. He has also played a pro-am round with Michael Jordan.
Woods held his first press conference since the scandal on April 5, during Masters week, and revealed he had five stitches in his lip from the SUV accident that preceded the tales of his womanizing, and that he had a torn Achilles’ heel last year.
He also held a press conference after each of his two opening rounds at Augusta National, although the questions by then were geared mainly toward his golf and the tournament.
Woods opened with a 68 — the first time he had ever broken 70 in the first round of the Masters — and remained in the picture until he made three bogeys in five holes to start the final round. Despite two eagles, he never caught up to Phil Mickelson and finished five shots behind.
Woods said after the tournament he was going to take some times to evaluate before deciding on his next event.
“One day I heard he was coming, then one day I heard he wasn’t coming,” said Hougham, who attended the Masters.
“It really didn’t matter to us at that point because we had to plan as if he was. Then if he didn’t come we wouldn’t have to implement a few things.
“We’re happy he let us know this far in advance. We never had this much notice. It’s great for the city of Charlotte. Ticket sales I’m sure will increase now.”