Quail Hollow different for Woods, Lefty

Updated: April 28, 2010, 7:55 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Phil Mickelson talked about the glow of his Masters victory, winning the Grand Slam and his post-Masters visit to a Krispy Kreme drive-thru.

Tiger Woods discussed getting back to normal, his controversial concert visit, and the paparazzi still stalking him.

Their paths crossed by mere minutes Wednesday for interview sessions at the Quail Hollow Championship, but the subject matter, of course, was completely different.

Mickelson returns to golf this week for his first tournament since winning his fourth major championship.

Woods makes his first appearance in a regular PGA Tour event since a sex scandal sent him to the sideline for more than four months before returning to much fanfare at the Masters, where he tied for fourth.

"I have to say this feels a heck of a lot more normal than the Masters did," said Woods, who teed off in the pro-am at 7:30 a.m. ET, with no spectator incidents. "I just need to go out there ... and get back into tournament mode again.

"I think two weeks in a row competing [including next week's Players Championship] is -- I'll have a better barometer of what normal really feels like because I haven't done that in awhile."

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonTiger Woods says this week at Quail Hollow feels more normal than his return to golf at the Masters.

Mickelson's perspective is far different at the moment. He is coming off an emotional and popular Masters victory, a win that his wife, Amy, who is fighting cancer, was there to see.

"It's probably the most important win that I've had, not because of having not won a major in four years or what happened at Winged Foot [where he lost the 2006 U.S. Open] or anything like that, but because of the emotional tie and the tough year that we've had this past year and being able to share it," Mickelson said.

"Amy and I were talking these last couple weeks about how glad we were that she was there, that the kids were there, that we could look back on that. And to have that together given what the past year has brought, it just made it probably the most special tournament win that I've had," Mickelson said.

Woods is typically the subject of Grand Slam talk at the start of any given year. But Mickelson now is the only player who can do it in 2010, although he said he'll be focusing solely on the tournament at hand when he plays the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

"I really want to give myself the best opportunity in the U.S. Open," said Mickelson, who has had five runner-up finishes but no victories in the national championship. "I had a good chance last year, a couple of years I've had great chances and haven't come through, and it's the one event that I'd love to win."

Like Woods, Mickelson is also trying to work off some rust, although the layoff was far more brief and a break worth celebrating.

"When I take two weeks off, the first week I usually don't touch a club, which was the case this past time off," Mickelson said. "But for the last five, six days I've been practicing pretty hard. I feel like my game is starting to come around. I see the improvement each day, and I feel like it's back to a level close to where it was at Augusta, so I certainly have high expectations this week and next."

Mickelson said he had promised his kids he'd take them for donuts the morning after the Masters and since it was a little chilly, "I threw on a jacket" -- his green Masters jacket. A store worker took his photo on a cell phone and by the time Mickelson returned to San Diego later that day "it was all over the Internet," he said.

Woods is a favorite photo subject as well. That has yet to subside as he returns to golf.

"There's paparazzi everywhere at home, helicopters here and there, people driving by, paparazzi camping out in front of the gates," he said. "That hasn't changed."

Woods was asked about attending a Nickelback concert in Orlando while his family was out of town.

"A couple of the band members are friends of mine, and that's why I went," he said. "I just had a great time. And unfortunately I got criticized for seeing my friends."

On the golf course, Woods received warm applause when he was introduced on the first tee. The loudest cheer came at the end of his pro-am round Wednesday, when he knocked in a 25-foot birdie putt before thousands of fans soaking up warm sunshine.

He caught a couple of jeers upon leaving the 18th green when he walked past fans wanting his autograph, but it was a claustrophobic walkway toward the clubhouse, and Woods stopped about 30 yards away and signed for 20 minutes.

He went out of his way to make eye contact with the fans, as he did at the Masters. Woods even posed for a picture with a kindergarten student on his way to the second tee.

"I'll tell you what, the people here have always been very gracious, very excited about this event," Woods said. "These fans here really get into the event, and again, with a great field like this, I think it'll be another great week."

Woods has said he will compete next week and again at the U.S. Open in June. But has yet to commit to the Memorial Tournament, where he is the defending champion, in early June. He said his future schedule remains "up in the air" due to "personal things."

Upon further review, Woods said his Masters result was a good one considering that all that transpired in his life away from the game.

"Immediately after the event they asked me how did I feel about it, and I wasn't very happy I lost," he said. "But given a little time to reflect on it, it was an incredible week.

"I think it went as well as it possibly could have gone, and obviously I didn't do what I needed to do on the weekend. But overall after not playing for that long and coming back and finishing fourth, I think that's pretty reasonable."

Woods' first round begins at 7:40 a.m. off the 10th tee with Stewart Cink and Angel Cabrera.

Mickelson starts off No. 1 at 12:50 p.m. along with Jim Furyk and Rory Sabbatini.

Bob Harig is a golf writer for ESPN.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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