CHARLOTTE, North Carolina: The mess Tiger Woods created for himself most likely will never leave him entirely. But the time will come when the focus shifts almost exclusively to his game, his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus and his place in history. That time is not this week at the US PGA Tour’s Quail Hollow Championship.The tournament is a sellout – even some of the caddies couldn’t scrounge up tickets for their friends – and these tickets were sold to the general public. Security has been beefed up, as expected. Even that won’t keep someone from saying something stupid during the five hours or longer that Woods is on the golf course.Are we back to normal? Not quite.Woods tees off on Thursday (tomorrow, Sydney time) on the 10th tee with British Open champion Stewart Cink and two-time major winner Angel Cabrera. That means he will be making his way along the ”Green Mile” at Quail Hollow – as brutal a finishing span as there is in golf – on Friday afternoon when the crowd is gearing up for the weekend and has had plenty of refreshments.Eventually, the attention will be mostly on his golf. Cink began preaching forgiveness in December even before Woods confessed to extramarital affairs. He is hopeful that having one tournament out of the way will allow Woods, and those watching, to get back to golf.”It’ll be a different crowd, but I wouldn’t expect a whole lot of unruliness,” Cink said.”I don’t know if that’s optimistic or what. That’s just what I think is going to happen. I think people love watching Tiger Woods play golf. All that other stuff that’s happened, people have forgiven him. And why not? We’re supposed to forgive.”Forgive and forget?That might be asking too much.The best tonic for Woods is playing golf because that’s what attracted so many people to him in the first place. It would help even more if he were to win, and he showed how close he might be with a tie for fourth at the Masters, despite not having played in five months. Still, even a victory pose in a red shirt won’t erase five months of sordid revelations.Such is the price Woods will have to pay for his reckless behaviour.”Now every one of you has good reason to be critical of me,” Woods said when he spoke to family and friends in his first public apology at the TPC Sawgrass in February.Woods goes back to Sawgrass next week for The Players Championship, the same clubhouse where he showed his face for the first time since running his car over a fire hydrant and into a tree in November, setting off this sex-laden saga.He will not be in the Sunset Room, set aside for corporate hospitality that week. He will be facing a crowd that celebrates misery, which is why so many of them camp out around the island green 17th hole on the Players Stadium Course. It will be another step in his recovery, win or lose. An uncertain reception awaits at Quail Hollow.AP
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