Preview: Wells Fargo Championship

 

Woods ready to return to work at Quail Hollow

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Tiger Woods spent three months working toward one week in April.

The Masters has come and gone.

Woods took a small step back at Augusta National when he misfired with his iron play, didn't break par until the final round and tied for 32nd. He finished 16 shots back, his widest distance from the lead in 19 appearances at the Masters.

It was a big step forward for Patrick Reed, who slept three hours after winning his first major, woke up at 5 a.m. because he couldn't sleep and responded to 155 text messages and about 180 emails.

''Every one,'' he said with a big smile.

This is no time to rest. Golf shifts into overdrive starting Thursday with the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, a course that hosted the PGA Championship last summer and boasts enough star players to make it feel like the next best thing to a major.

The Players Championship is the following week. Three major championships, starting with the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, are played in a nine-week span.

''Building toward next week,'' Woods said. ''Hopefully, I can have everything peak for this week and next week, but mainly next week. And after that, it's getting ready for Shinnecock.''

Woods put a new set of irons in his bag for Quail Hollow, and in some respects, the course feels new. He hasn't played the Wells Fargo Championship since 2012, and while he won in 2007, he has missed the cut the last two times he played. It's the only golf course where he has missed the 36-hole cut twice.

Since then, and mainly for the PGA Championship, Quail Hollow combined the opening two holes into one long par 4 and built two new holes on the front nine. Since the last time he played, the 16th hole has been overhauled so that the green sits by the water.

''The golf course is much harder than it used to be, that's for sure,'' Woods said after his pro-am round Wednesday. ''It's longer, but it's also more difficult.''

Woods wasn't sure what to make of the Masters except that his irons were off. He had been building toward April, a phrase he used on more than one occasion from the onset of his return following a fourth back surgery. He was in the hunt on the front nine of the final round at the Honda Classic and came within one shot of a playoff at the Valspar Championship. He was one shot out of the lead with three holes to play at Bay Hill until hitting his tee shot out-of-bounds.

And then he never featured at Augusta National.

''I didn't hit my irons very good,'' Woods said. ''If I did hit a green, I hit it above the hole, I hit it in the wrong spot. I had defensive putts for most of the days. I needed to be more precise and I wasn't. Still need to continue to work on it and try to get sharp, and hopefully this will be a good week.''

Woods said he put his golf clubs in the closet for 10 days after the Masters, did some moderate weightlifting while staying flexible and then went back to work on his golf muscles and the speed of his swing.

''And I got them all back,'' he said.

Reed returned last week at the Zurich Classic, a team event he played with Patrick Cantlay, and tied for seventh. He was in awe of the green jacket, which he wore during a media tour in New York, to a Houston Astros game and even to fast-food restaurant.

Just don't get the idea that he is satisfied with his year.

Reed won't even buy into the notion that no matter what happens the rest of the year, this will be his best year. He won twice in 2014. He only has one trophy this year. That's how he measures success.

''I'm never going to settle,'' Reed said. ''I'm not the type that just because I won one major means I'm done. I want to go out, compete and get that feeling more and more and try to win as many golf tournaments as I possibly can.''

This would be a big one, because of the quality of the golf course and the field.

Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler all are playing for the first time since the Masters. Justin Thomas has a chance to go to No. 1 in the world, and Quail Hollow is where he won the PGA Championship last August.

Woods is coming off a three-week break, his longest since he returned to the PGA Tour in January, and it was a welcome respite.

''I played a lot of golf heading into Augusta, more golf than I thought I would be able to play,'' he said. ''It was nice to shut it down, reflect, analyze, sit back and try and figure out what's the best course of action going forward so I can win events.''

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Wells Fargo field
Byeong Hun AnAbraham AncerAaron Baddeley
Blayne BarberDaniel BergerRyan Blaum
Jonas BlixtDominic BozzelliKeegan Bradley
Scott BrownBronson BurgoonSam Burns
Jonathan ByrdPaul CaseyBud Cauley
Alex CejkaGreg ChalmersStewart Cink
Corey ConnersAustin CookJoel Dahmen
Jason DayBryson DeChambeauRoberto Diaz
Jason DufnerTyler DuncanErnie Els
Derek ErnstBob EstesMatt Every
Derek FathauerTony FinauRoss Fisher
Tommy FleetwoodMartin FloresRickie Fowler
Dylan FrittelliCharles FrostBrice Garnett
Lucas GloverFabian GomezTalor Gooch
Retief GoosenJ.T. GriffinLanto Griffin
Emiliano GrilloBill HaasChesson Hadley
Adam HadwinJames HahnBrandon Harkins
Brian HarmanTyrrell HattonRussell Henley
J.J. HenryTom HogeJ.B. Holmes
Beau HosslerCharles Howell IIIMackenzie Hughes
Billy Hurley IIIStephan JaegerCarter Jenkins
Sung KangSmylie KaufmanMartin Kaymer
Whee KimKevin KisnerPatton Kizzire
Brooks KoepkaJason KokrakKelly Kraft
Anirban LahiriAndrew LandryNate Lashley
Danny LeeNicholas LindheimLuke List
Dru LoveDavis Love IIITom Lovelady
Jamie LovemarkShane LowryPeter Malnati
Steve MarinoBen MartinHideki Matsuyama
Denny McCarthyGraeme McDowellRory McIlroy
Troy MerrittPhil MickelsonKeith Mitchell
Francesco MolinariRyan MooreTrey Mullinax
Grayson MurrayJoaquin NiemannAlex Noren
Sean O'HairGeoff OgilvyLouis Oosthuizen
Rob OppenheimChris PaisleyRod Pampling
C.T. PanMito PereiraJohn Peterson
Martin PillerD.A. PointsJ.T. Poston
Ted Potter, Jr.Seamus PowerAndrew Putnam
Jonathan RandolphPatrick ReedPatrick Rodgers
Ryan RuffelsSam RyderRory Sabbatini
Sam SaundersXander SchauffeleAdam Schenk
Ollie SchniederjansCharl SchwartzelAdam Scott
Ben SilvermanWebb SimpsonVijay Singh
Scott StallingsKyle StanleyShawn Stefani
Robert StrebKevin StreelmanChris Stroud
Brian StuardHudson SwaffordNick Taylor
Vaughn TaylorJustin ThomasKyle Thompson
Michael ThompsonCameron TringaleKevin Tway
Peter UihleinTyrone Van AswegenHarold Varner III
Jhonattan VegasT.J. VogelJohnson Wagner
Nick WatneyRichy WerenskiAaron Wise
Gary WoodlandTiger WoodsXinjun Zhang
Strength of field
World RankPlayersNo. in Field
TOP 10Brooks Koepka (3),Justin Thomas (4),Rory McIlroy (5),Francesco Molinari (6),Bryson DeChambeau (7),Rickie Fowler (9)6
TOP 25Jason Day (11),Tommy Fleetwood (12),Tiger Woods (13),Patrick Reed (15),Webb Simpson (16),Tony Finau (17),Xander Schauffele (18),Alex Noren (19),Paul Casey (20),Hideki Matsuyama (21),Phil Mickelson (24)11
TOP 50Tyrrell Hatton (26),Kyle Stanley (27),Kevin Kisner (28),Keegan Bradley (31),Louis Oosthuizen (36),Brian Harman (38),Gary Woodland (39),Adam Scott (41),Daniel Berger (46),Byeong Hun An (47),Aaron Wise (50)11
TOP 100Luke List (54),Adam Hadwin (58),Emiliano Grillo (61),Charl Schwartzel (62),Ross Fisher (64),Peter Uihlein (65),Russell Henley (66),Jason Dufner (68),Dylan Frittelli (69),Ryan Moore (71),Stewart Cink (74),Chesson Hadley (75),Andrew Landry (76),Beau Hossler (77),Andrew Putnam (78),Charles Howell III (79),Shane Lowry (83),J.B. Holmes (88),Patton Kizzire (89),Jhonattan Vegas (90),Ted Potter, Jr. (98),C.T. Pan (100)22
Course: Quail Hollow Club, Par 71 | Yardage: 7469
HoleParYardageHoleParYardage
10559214495
11446224452
12445634483
13320843167
14434454449
15557763249
16450675546
17322384346
18449494505