McIlroy, Westwood headline Quail Hollow field
World number two Rory McIlroy and third-ranked Lee Westwood head a strong field assembled for this week's Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina at a venue that typically produces elite winners.
The list of former champions includes Vijay Singh (2005), Jim Furyk (2006), Tiger Woods (2007), McIlroy (2010) who is eager to be back at the course where he clinched his maiden PGA Tour victory.
"It's always nice to come back to somewhere where you've had success at," the mop-haired U.S. Open champion told reporters at Quail Hollow Club on Wednesday.
"I've got great memories of this course and of this tournament from 2010. I've played some great golf here and played not so great golf here last year, but I'm looking forward just to get back out on the course."
The Northern Irishman, already acknowledged as an extraordinary talent, stunned the golfing world with his victory at Quail Hollow where he closed with a course record 10-under-par 62 to blow away a top-quality field by four shots.
"It was nice to get that first win in the United States, the second win of my career," he recalled. "A lot of European players come over here and struggle to win, so to come over here and get a win early was nice.
"It gave me the confidence to know if I came over here a little bit more that I did have good chances of winning tournaments here."
McIlroy has since won his first major title with an eight-stroke triumph in last year's U.S. Open but he faces a tough field this week which also includes world number five Hunter Mahan, seventh-ranked Woods and 10th-ranked Phil Mickelson.
"This is one of our best regular Tour events that we have," said American left-hander Mickelson. "It's one of the best courses tee to green I think we play all year and it's really a fun tournament for us.
"When this tournament came into existence, it was done right, right from the beginning, and so it didn't really need to evolve too much. A lot of the members here are members at Augusta (National).
"They know how the greatest tournament in the world (the Masters) is run. They implemented a lot of those subtleties and nuances into this tournament right from day one, and it's every bit as good from day one as it is today."
Woods will certainly command much of the attention this week as he returns to the PGA Tour for the first time since tying for 40th at the Masters where he completed his worst performance as a professional.
The former world number one failed to break 72 in any of his four rounds but believes he has solved the ball-striking problems which plagued him at Augusta National.
"At the Masters, I was kind of struggling with my ball-striking a little bit," Woods said earlier this week.
"(Swing coach) Sean (Foley) and I fixed it. It had to do with my posture. My setup wasn't quite right, as well as my takeaway so we worked on that. I just needed to do hundreds of (repetitions).
"I'm getting dialed in."
Woods, a 14-times major champion, took a week off after the April 5-8 Masters and has since spent the past fortnight working on his game.
Having ended a two-and-a-half-year title drought on the PGA Tour by winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, he likes his prospects of securing another victory this week.
"If I can do the things that we've been working on, and get my posture and my takeaway dialed in, then yes, I have a good chance," said Woods.
Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover will launch his title defense at Quail Hollow in Thursday's opening round.
Glover, who beat Jonathan Byrd in a playoff for last year's Wells Fargo Championship, has been grouped with fellow American Kyle Stanley and Britain's Westwood.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Steve Keating)