Quail Hollow prepared for Tiger circus

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Organizers of the Quail Hollow Championship are confident the tournament will go smoothly when the disgraced Tiger Woods plays there for his first regular PGA Tour event of the season.

Although the world number one made his highly anticipated return to competition from self-imposed exile at last week's U.S. Masters, Quail Hollow will be the first tournament in his comeback where tickets are sold to the general public.

While Woods was given a warm welcome by the fans in the tightly controlled environment at Augusta National for the Masters, he could well experience his first on-course heckling since his double life was exposed.

"We don't anticipate a problem with our crowds," tournament director Kym Hougham told Reuters on Friday. "Our crowds are very respectful and they always have been.

"If there is any inappropriate behavior, we'll act on it swiftly. I'm sure if Tiger didn't feel we could handle it, he wouldn't be coming here."

Woods has always enjoyed playing at Quail Hollow where he triumphed in 2007 and Hougham said the world number one's participation again this year had been a key component in preparations for the April 29-May 2 event.

"We started internal planning almost two months ago and we had a Tiger plan just in case," Hougham added. "Now we can implement it."

Although reluctant to disclose details, Hougham said security plans had been tweaked to ensure the safety of the game's leading player.


"We don't comment on security but we feel comfortable with the plan that we have in place," he said. "We have always been pretty strict and secure and we believe every player deserves the kind of security we provide."

The return of Woods to professional golf at the Masters following tawdry revelations he had a string of extra-marital affairs made the season's opening major one of the biggest spectacles in sport this year.

The 14-times major champion came under intense media scrutiny at Augusta National and more of the same can be expected at Quail Hollow.

Lee Patterson, the tournament's director of communications, said the Quail Hollow media center was being expanded but that many non-traditional golf outlets had missed the April 2 cutoff for accreditation.

"I already had 72 media outlets and around 250 (people) accredited prior to yesterday," Patterson told Reuters.

"I was able to accommodate only about 30 more people before I reached capacity due to my space limitations."

The Quail Hollow Championship always attracts a strong field and this year's event will also feature American world number two Phil Mickelson, the winner of last week's Masters, and fourth-ranked Lee Westwood of Britain.

(Editing by Alastair Himmer)