British Open won't bar Tiger hecklers

Tiger Woods has always described St Andrews as one of his favorite places in the world of golf, yet he can expect no special treatment when he attempts in July to add to the two Open Championships he has won there, The Times reported Wednesday.

Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the R&A, which organizes and runs the Open, said that although spectators will be expected to show respect to the players, they were entitled to express their views.

There has been speculation that Woods might be heckled after revelations about his private life, and Dawson admitted there was little he could do to prevent it.

"We're not a police state," he said. "People can say what they like."

Woods has yet to confirm that he will help to celebrate the championship's 150th year, but it is difficult, now that he has returned to the game after five months away, to think of the oldest of the majors going ahead without him.

While the R&A is keen not to be heavy-handed over security, Dawson pointed out that bad behavior of spectators would not be tolerated.

"If they start putting players off, we'll have something to say about it," he said at St Andrews. "They are asked to stop and if they don't, they are asked to leave."

Asked if he expected a negative reaction to Woods, whose extra-marital affairs have battered his public image, Dawson took heart from what happened at the Masters three weeks ago.

"I don't think I do, although I could be badly wrong," he said. "The Augusta fans are people just like everybody else and I think there was genuine relief that Tiger was back.

"I think the reaction to him was measured. It wasn't enthusiastic but it wasn't hugely negative, either. I expect something similar here.

Referring to the star's marital woes following a string of affairs, Dawson added: "I remain the biggest fan of his golf game that there could possibly be. I'm just very sad at what has happened and I'm sure that he is, too. I don't know anybody who saw this coming. It was a great shock to all of us in golf. Let's hope he returns a stronger person."