Golf Tournaments Ready for Possible Tiger Woods Return

Golf Tournaments Ready for Possible Tiger Woods ReturnDORAL, Fla. — Not long after Tiger
Woods
returned home and starting practicing, the PGA Tour began
checking with tournaments to make sure they were prepared to handle the
hype over the world's No. 1 player getting back to golf.

That even includes tournaments he has never played.

"Historically, he hasn't played the
week before the Masters," said Steve Timms, tournament director of the
Houston Open, which is the week before the Masters. "But these are
unusual times. We're prepared from a security and media standpoint.
We've been watching the media closely, and we've had some weird ones."

Timms, like other tournament directors, are in touch with PGA Tour officials about who is applying for media credentials.

The more immediate focus is in
Florida. Woods hasn't played at Innisbrook since Kelli Kuehne was his
partner in 1996 at the old JCPenney Classic. Long before Woods was
exposed for cheating on his wife, there had been increasing speculation
that he was considering the Transitions Championship one of these
years, although this doesn't appear to be one of them.

Even so, tournament director Gerald Goodman said tour officials contacted him last week.

"They described it as talking to all
tournaments," Goodman said. "They gave no indication that they knew
anything, they were just wanting to be thorough. They asked us if we
had room for media. We're a large resort on a thousand acres. There's
plenty of room."

Scott Wellington didn't need a phone
call to start planning. He's the tournament director of the Arnold
Palmer
Invitational at Bay Hill, where Woods is a six-time champion
(including last year) and lives a short drive away.

Wellington said the tour shared
information from its experience at the TPC Sawgrass, where Woods spoke
publicly Feb. 19 for the first time since his car accident the morning
after Thanksgiving. Some 300 media came to a nearby hotel to cover the
event.

Bay Hill is not the largest
property, although it typically has a large media turnout because it is
two weeks before the Masters.

"We'll accommodate to the extent
we're able to," Wellington said. "But it's like a balloon. It can only
get so big. We've discussed 'Plan B' scenarios, and we're prepared to
react as best we can. Obviously, it would help to get as much advance
knowledge as we can."

Woods typically does not enter a
tournament until a day or two before the 5 p.m. Friday deadline,
although there are indications from his management team that more
notice will be given in this case.

PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw
described the phone calls as typical conversations the tour has with
its events on subjects ranging from media coverage to charity to
television. In this case, another topic was added — the return of
Woods.

"We've not indicated that we have inside knowledge," Votaw said. "We just want them to be aware so they're no scrambling."

Mr. Harrington Goes to Washington
Padraig Harrington can't think of a better way to celebrate St.
Patrick's Day — at the White House for a party hosted by President
Barack Obama.

Ireland's three-time major champion
says he has been invited to the White House on March 17 for an annual
St. Patrick's Day party that the president hosts for the Irish
taoiseach.

"I'm looking forward to it,"
Harrington said, who shared his good news with no prompting. "I want to
meet one of the most charismatic people in the world, and the most
influential leaders in the world. And he's a golfer. I quite enjoy
celebrating St. Patrick's Day."

But he'll take it easy on the celebration.

"I have a tee time the next day," Harrington said.

In what is sure to be a busy week, the Irishman plans to play that week in the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook.

English Lesson
Of the eight English
players among the top 75 in the world ranking, four of them are PGA
Tour members. All but one of those four — Justin Rose — has won in
America.

Ian Poulter was the most recent at
the Match Play Championship, with Paul Casey winning a year ago and
Luke Donald a two-time winner. Rose is 0-for-154 on the PGA Tour and
can only hope he's next.

"I played good enough golf to win
out here," Rose said after his third-place finish at the Honda Classic.
"I've been close a few times. I would have hoped that one of them would
have got in the way by now. Sometimes winning just gets in the way
without you trying too hard."

Pinehurst Makeover
Bill Coore and
Ben Crenshaw have been hired for a restoration project at Pinehurst No.
2 that has nothing to do with the U.S. Open returning in 2014. The
course will not be significantly lengthened, only one tee box will be
changed, the course will have minimal mowed rough and the fairways will
be widened.

Coore and Crenshaw will return
natural and strategic character to the course, with work set to begin
in the fall. The changes include a return to sandy waste areas, native
wiregrass and natural bunker edges on the Donald Ross design.

"It is not our intent to radically
change this golf course," Coore said. "We're trying to uncover it, not
recover it. We're trying to take what Ross left and perhaps bring it
back to the character and definition of what was once here. In short,
we'll bring the strategy back, and reinstate its character."

The course closes from Nov. 15 until March 2, and the majority of the work is expected to be done by then.

"We're not doing this for purely
environmental reasons, nor are we doing this project as preparation for
the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open championships," said Pinehurst
president Don Padgett II. "We're doing it because it's the right thing
to do, as stewards of this historic course."

Divots
Larry Thiel, who for years
was executive director of The International, has joined the Bob Hope
Classic as tournament chairman. … Seven former major champions are in
the field at the Puerto Rico Open, including Tom Kite. … A
Massachusetts couple bid $28,500 to play in the Houston Open pro-am
with U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover and ESPN radio hosts Mike
Greenberg
and Mike Golic. Shell Oil added $20,000, with proceeds going
for the V-Foundation for Cancer Research. The couple's bid also
includes airfare and hotel.

Stat of the Week
Italian brothers
Edoardo and Francesco Molinari are No. 47 and No. 48 in the world
ranking, separated by .0000275 points.

Final Word
"Three rounds is a good thing. They don't need to kill us out here." Fred Couples on playing the Champions Tour. 

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