Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy return to action this week at the US$6.5 million Wells Fargo Championship, where a strong field begins the march toward the US Open next month.
McIlroy, the reigning US Open champion, turns 23 today and another US PGA Tour title would be a terrific birthday present as well as a chance to reclaim the world No. 1 ranking captured by Luke Donald with his third-place finish in New Orleans on Sunday.
“It would be nice to assert my authority in that No. 1 position and keep it for a while,” said McIlroy, although he is not the only player chasing the top spot this week.
While Donald will not tee up on the par-72 Quail Hollow course, England’s Lee Westwood also has a shot at regaining the top ranking with a victory here.
“It’s not really a priority,” said Westwood, who successfully defended his Indonesian Masters title on April 22. “I’d obviously like to be world No. 1 again, but winning major championships is really my priority from now on ... Winning this week is the priority for this week. It’s a bit like trying to qualify for the Ryder Cup, becoming world No. 1. It’s the result of a process of playing well, but you can’t really focus on it.”
Woods is not in the world No. 1 mix at the moment, but the 14-time major champion is in the spotlight whenever he plays.
The winner here in 2007, Woods will be making his first start since the Masters, where his equal 40th finish was his worst at Augusta National and included a highly publicized bout of temper in which he kicked a nine-iron after a poor tee shot in the second round.
Woods opted out of pre-tournament interviews at Quail Hollow, choosing instead to answer questions from fans submitted via Facebook and Twitter.
He posted a video on his Web site on Monday, prompting fellow American Phil Mickelson to quip at his own pre-tournament press conference: “You guys didn’t see my video, huh?”
Woods’s performance at the Masters was a surprise after his five-shot victory at Bay Hill.
On his Web video he said his posture was a problem at Augusta National and he had resolved the issues in practice.
Woods was to tee off yesterday afternoon in a group with 2006 US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy of Australia and Webb Simpson, who finished second on the US tour money list last year.
McIlroy, whose victory here in 2010 — with a final-round 62 — was his first on the US tour, is grouped with 2003 champion David Toms and 2006 winner Jim Furyk.