Tiger Woods finds more of a routine at Quail Hollow
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A few moments before his 7:30 a.m. tee time Wednesday, Tiger Woods walked from the practice green at the Quail Hollow Club to the first tee to join partners Kurt Kimball and Jim Rathburn for their pro-am round.
When Woods emerged on the first tee, he was greeted with applause. He walked to his partners and said, "You guys ready?" and, upon being introduced by the tee announcer, Woods tipped his white cap.
Just like all those other years at the Quail Hollow Championship.
Then Woods flared his opening tee shot into the right trees — not the first time that's happened — made a par from there and a cool morning quickly came to life.
"I have to say this feels a heck of a lot more normal than the Masters did," Woods said in a nationally televised press conference after his round.
There are no planes pulling banners flying overhead. No heckling fans.
It was another Wednesday morning like many others, making it more like the way it used to be for Woods and the PGA Tour.
That doesn't mean everything felt the way it once did. Early on, it was as if the gallery wasn't sure how to react.
There was a larger crowd of media walking inside the ropes following Woods. Security officers were in plain sight. Others weren't quite so obvious.
After Woods' round, he did a 15-minute press conference that was nationally televised.
He also stopped for an extended period of time to sign autographs after his round. He stopped again to sign following a session on the practice range and one more time after a putting session before leaving the course for the afternoon.
Walking off the first green toward the second tee Wednesday morning, Woods stopped and posed for a photograph with a six-year old boy.
On Thursday, Woods gets back to the serious business of golf, teeing it up at 7:40 a.m. in his second tournament since ending his long break from golf. It's where Woods has traditionally played after the Masters, an indication that his schedule may soon take on a familiar feel.
He's already committed to play in The Players Championship next week.
"I'm trying to get back to normalcy in that," Woods said when asked about his playing schedule.
"But Charlotte has always been one of my favorite tour stops. We don't get a chance to play golf courses like this one very often and it's always a treat to play a course like this."
Asked if he felt like his life is getting closer to normal beyond the golf course, Woods said no.
"There's paparazzi everywhere at home," he said.
There were plenty of cameras Wednesday but they were documenting the events of the day. There were photos of Woods playing from the trees at No. 3 and photos of him laughing when one of his partners hit a shank at the fifth hole.
Just like before.
"I think eventually everybody is — I don't know if so much forget is the word but (ready to) move on," defending champion Sean O'Hair said. "It's nice to have him back.
"We need our best player playing and as a player and a friend, it's nice to have him back. I think once this kind of all blows over, I think it'll be good for everybody."
At the draw party Tuesday night when amateurs got to select their pro, Kimball and Rathburn had first choice. They picked Woods.
"I could hardly get the words out of my mouth," said Rathburn.
"It was the experience of a lifetime. I never in my wildest dreams think I'd have the chance to do this. He was great. He even settled me down a little just talking to me. He was extremely personable."
In the past, Woods has arrived at Quail Hollow having already played five tournaments or more. This time, he has his fourth-place finish at the Masters to build on but he's still playing catch up in his preparation.
Woods called his pro-am round "scratchy" and said he's still searching to regain his competitive rhythm. He reiterated his statement from Augusta that golf is fun to him again.
"I've had a lot of struggles internally for a while now and that's one reason why it wasn't much fun," Woods said. "The game is now where it used to be. It should be fun and it is a game. Even though I do it for a living, it's still a game and it wasn't for a while."
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