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Quail Hollow Championship tees off

An example of the circus that follows Tiger Woods these days.
An example of the circus that follows Tiger Woods these days.

For the eighth time, Charlotte's Quail Hollow Championship tees off this week. The tournament formerly known as the Wachovia will again feature the best golfers in the world. The event quickly gained elite status on the PGA tour after its inception in 2003. This year, Charlotte will get extra attention because Tiger Woods is playing. And it's not just the tournament that hopes to benefit from Tiger's presence in Charlotte. For more on the tournament, WFAE's Scott Graf spoke with The Golf Channel's Rich Lerner. RICH It's now one of the premiere tournament stops on the PGA Tour, one of the most successful events at least from a fan standpoint because it draws the very best players. The field is just about equal to any of the major championships-The Masters, the US Open, and the British Open-and the reason players have determined that this is a must-play on their schedule is that the golf course is so good. But it's evolved in a very short period of time to become one of the best stops on the PGA Tour, and that's really without debate. SCOTT How did it ascend to its current level so quickly? RICH I think number one you have to credit Johnny Harris, the founder of Quail Hollow, and the prime mover behind the Championship. Johnny is a... sort of a charismatic figure, speaks well with people, knows all the power brokers, and was able to pull all the right parties together. At this point, the Quail Hollow Championship, outside of the majors, is almost without peer. I mean there are one or two other tournaments that might rival it, but it's a very short list. SCOTT I don't think you can have a conversation these days without talking about Tiger Woods. Of course he has decided to play in this week's tournament. It was sort of a zoo, of course, down in Augusta for the Masters-at least early on-then it kind of got to be about the golf. How big of a distraction will it be here in Charlotte that Tiger's coming to town again? RICH We're curious to see if it will be that much different than Augusta National. He was treated really well at Augusta, because it's a controlled environment, decorum is paramount, and the patrons or fans there fully understand that when you walk through the gates. You do not hear people screaming 'you da man tiger go get 'em'. But we may see a little bit of that at Charlotte. Late in the day, cocktails are flowing, and I think it could get loud, and I think you may hear something directed at Tiger. But my sense is that the story is losing some steam. SCOTT I don't know if you're aware of this, that one of the gentlemen's clubs here in Charlotte to coincide with the Quail Hollow Championship is bringing one of Tiger's alleged mistresses to appear this week as well. How long will this circus and this baggage that's attached to Tiger go on? RICH I could see it going through the end of this year, because people who are looking to capitalize on this will take it as far as the public tells them it can go on. If they draw good crowds in Charlotte at this gentlemen's club, and she makes a lot of money, then she'll take her act probably up to Ponte Vedra Beach for the Players' Championship, and after that wherever Tiger's going to play. And I think it's just something Tiger's going to have to deal with. SCOTT Rich after Tiger Woods' father passed away several years ago, he chose not to come to Charlotte and play in what was then still the Wachovia Championship. And it didn't really have the same feel that it wasn't nearly as big a deal-at least the perception was-because Tiger wasn't here. Obviously he's back this year. Is getting him in a tournament like Charlotte's as big of a deal as it once was, and if it is, is it for the right reasons? RICH Well, I mean, that's debatable. I mean, this is still entertainment: this is the number one box office draw. I mean golf without Tiger would be like U2 without Bono. I mean Tiger has a huge impact on the ratings, and that's - let's not kid ourselves - that's important for sponsors and it's a sponsor driven world that we're in: professional sports. But certainly this is where sort of this new era is going to begin to take shape this week in Charlotte. I mean, there's a lot of excitement-trust me-within the sports world about what's going to take place this week in Charlotte. SCOTT Rich Lerner with The Golf Channel we appreciate your time and we'll look forward to your folk's coverage later this week. RICH Nice to be on with you. We look forward to a great week in Charlotte.