Cover Story: Tiger Woods at Quail Hollow?

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - While everybody's eyes are on Augusta this weekend and the return of the world's most famous athlete, officials at the Quail Hollow Championship have their fingers crossed and a plan in place hoping Charlotte can benefit from Tiger Woods' return.

There's a little more anticipation this year.

As is Tiger's tradition he waits until the last minute to let tournaments know whether he's coming.

But with what's happened over the last five months Tiger has acknowledged that he's now doing things differently

He calls it one of his favorite courses.  And it could have been at south Charlotte's Quail Hollow Club that Tiger Woods made his debut since a sex scandal last November caused him to leave the game.

But clearly it made it easier for Quail Hollow - not having that pressure.

"I think he made the right choice going out at The Masters because of the controlled situation," says Kym Hougham, executive director of the Quail Hollow Championship.  "Not to say we wouldn't have been able to do it.. but it takes the pressure off us now if we're the second.. not being the first."

Hougham says they have a contingency plan should Tiger let them know-- on the Friday before tournament week at 5 o'clock-- if he's coming.

250 media credentials have already been issued.  CBS Evening News and other networks newscasts are seeking to cover the event which they haven't in the past.

Quail Hollow officials expect more media.. and more security (if Woods shows up) than they've had before.

In the seven years of the championship.. he won here in 2007.. Tiger has only missed three times.

Considering the way he's playing The Masters and the way the crowds are receiving him many think he'll make it to Charlotte this year even though it's not as controlled here as Augusta.

Hougham doesn't believe Woods will encounter hecklers.  Players tell him the fans at Quail Hollow are respectful.

"They've always been respectful of the players," he says.  "We here that from all the players. And they're very knowledgeable about golf.. so I would expect that we would see a lot of what we see down in Augusta to be honest."

Since his 13-minute public apology carried live by all the networks two months ago Woods is trying to take back his image - moving attention away from his scandal to his performance on the golf course.

If he shows up at Quail Hollow he'll be in good company.  14 of the top 21 players eligible in the world have said they will be here.

Says Hougham, "Some of the best players in the world and one of the best golf courses on tour.. going to be a great week."

And it starts in less than three weeks, the last week of April.  Tickets are still available.  In fact there's a kiosk inside SouthPark mall.

The tournament's sold out every year except for last year.  They didn't sell out the first round.  But if Tiger says he's coming you can be sure that's going to change.

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