Just how hard will it be for Tiger Woods to fight for a consolation prize? No disrespect to the Quail Hollow Championship but following the great build up to The Masters can there possibly be as much anticipation for a Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods showdown this week?

Likely not but hardcore golf fans know that with a warm-up tournament under his belt Tiger Woods could possibly be a force to be reckoned this week in Charlotte. That’s not to say that 2010 Masters Champion Phil Mickelson can be dismissed as contender but would you blame him for not being quite as pumped up to take on Quail Hollow? 

An elite field, including Woods and Mickelson, are in the Queen City this week to seek the title at one of the tour’s most prestigious “regular” events. The players love both the treatment they receive, the quality of the golf course, and the knowledgeable fans that come out to see this event, making it a popular annual stop.

Eight of the top ten players on the FedEx Cup Points list will tackle the 7442-yard  layout at the Quail Hollow Club, a grouping that does not currently include the World’s #1 player. But all those on that elite list certainly hear his footsteps.

Tiger has made four appearances at Quail Hollow (2004, 2005, 2007, and 2009) and won in 2007. In sixteen rounds played only two were over par and seven have been in the 60’s. His finished fourth last year after an opening round 65. He was just two back of the winner Sean O’Hair who came from three back to start the final round to catch and pass the overnight leader, Zach Johnson, for the win.

Speaking of the defending champion, O’Hair has played solid golf this season but certainly nothing of a spectacular nature that would indicate a good chance to repeat this week. In nine starts on the Tour in 2010 he has made eight cuts but has just one top ten to his resume. He has had a week off following The Masters where he tied for 30th.

 Whoever wants to take the title and the $1.17 million winner’s cut of the $6.5 million purse up for grabs this week will not only face a tough field but a golf course that will push games to the limits.

Although the tournament record is 16 under par (Anthony Kim, 2008) that is hardly a true indication of the U.S. Open like setup at Quail Hollow.

Even if players manage to get past the first fifteen holes each day certain body parts may start to tighten up a bit as they head for the 16th tee. In 2009 no final three holes on Tour played tougher than the closing trio in Charlotte. In fact, in 2009 alone the 18th hole was the 2nd toughest closer on tour. Players averaged 4.374 on the par four, effectively making it a par four and a half.

And don’t forget the water laden par three that is #17. In 2008 it was the toughest par three on tour with an average score of 3.418. Almost 250 balls have been rinsed in its lake since the tournament started in 2003.

 A few things are certain at Quail Hollow: the last three holes will shape the tournament outcome, and chances are the winner will be a quality player that has already proven his ability to perform at the top levels of the tour. Look to past winners David Toms, Joey Sindelar, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Tiger Woods, Anthony Kim, and Sean O’Hair as proof of that.

As per usual Golf Channel will have early coverage while the CBS Team pick it up on the weekend. Be sure to check out the fabulous bag and tournament photos on GolfWRX.com.

This report provided to GolfWRX.com by Flagstick Golf Magazine (www.flagstick.com)

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