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Tiger Woods heads strong field at Quail Hollow

Tiger Woods heads a strong field for the Quail Hollow Championship here this week, the 14-time major champion making his first start since the Masters.

World number one Woods will be joined by world number two Phil Mickelson, number three Sergio Garcia of Spain and number four Geoff Ogilvy of Australia.

Woods, who has confirmed he will play this week and in next week's prestigious Players Championship, says he is further ahead than he expected to be at this stage in his return from left knee surgery last June.

"I'm just now starting to get my pop back," said Woods, whose last-day charge at the Masters fell short and left him tied for sixth.

"I didn't think I'd be playing pain-free in my knee, just because of what I went through and all the rehab. It wasn't fun," he said.

"It was long days of just not feeling very good at all, and to come out here and do whatever I wanted to do, hit shots however I wanted to hit them and not have to worry about it, I'm certainly ahead of schedule."

Newly-crowned Masters champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina and three-time major champion Padraig Harrington of Ireland are also entered, as is defending champion Anthony Kim, whose winning total last year was a tournament record 16-under 272.

"Anytime you're fortunate enough to get Tiger, it takes everything up a notch," tournament director Kym Hougham said. "It's like a ray of sunshine around here."

Woods will be making his fourth appearance at Quail Hollow, where he won the then-Wachovia championship in 2007.

He didn't defend last year as he recovered from post-Masters arthroscopic knee surgery, a procedure that was followed later in the year by a major reconstructive operation that kept him out of action for eight months.

At the Quail Hollow club course, Woods and his rivals will face a demanding three finishing holes that can make or break the tournament.

"You have to suck it up and hit five or six great shots coming down the stretch there," said former Masters champion Trevor Immelman of South Africa, who lost a sudden-death playoff to Jim Furyk in 2006 after three-putting the 18th in regulation.


April 30, 2009

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