Quail Hollow Championship Preview

The PGA Tour is in North Carolina this week for the Quail Hollow Championship. Sean O’Hair defends the title and Tiger Woods makes his first competitive outing since The Masters.

Sean O'Hair defends

Lowdown: All eyes will, once again, be on Tiger Woods at Quail Hollow as he makes his first start in a regular PGA Tour event since returning from an extended layoff. He's a former winner of this event and is a heavy favourite to take the title again this week. With the Players Championship next week, this event has attracted an extremely strong field. In fact, 21 of the world's top 33 players will tee it up. As a result the tournament carries an impressive purse and offers significant ranking points to those who are successful. Once again there's a strong English contingent on the start list - Lee Westwood, Ross Fisher, Brian Davis and Greg Owen will all play. Despite saying he would not play in this event immediately after missing the cut at The Masters, Rory McIlroy has made the journey back across the Atlantic. Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia will also play. Founded by James J. Harris in 1959, Quail Hollow is a private member's club, but it has been host to this tournament since 2003. There's been an illustrious line of winners in the event, formerly known as the Wachovia Championships. David Toms came out on top in 2003 and, since then, Joey Sindelar, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Tiger Woods, Anthony Kim and Sean O'Hair have been victorious. Last season O'Hair beat Lucas Glover and Bubba Watson by a single stroke despite bogeying the last two holes.

Venue: Quail Hollow Club, North Carolina Date: Apr 29 - May 2 Course stats: par 72, 7,442 yards Purse: $6,400,000 Winner: $1,152,000 Defending Champion: Sean O'Hair (-11)

TV Coverage: Thursday 29 - Live on Sky Sports 2 from 8pm Friday 30 - Live on Sky Sports 4 from 9pm Saturday 1 - Live on Sky Sports 4 from 6pm Sunday 2 - Live on Sky Sports 2 from 8pm

Player Watch: Jim Furyk - Winner at the Verizon Heritage, Furyk is back to his best. He's an accurate driver of the ball and Quail Hollow suits his style of play. Boo Weekley - He's striking the ball as well as anybody on the PGA Tour at the moment and, if he can find his putting boots, will contend on this course. Lee Westwood - The Englishman is on a confidence high at the moment after finishing runner-up at the Masters. This is a ball striker's course and few are better than Westwood.

Key holes: 17th. A par-3 of 217 yards where the ball must be carried all the way to the green over water. When the pressure is on, this hole is bound to produce some drama.

Holes 16-18 here are known as "The Green Mile," with the 18th the pinnacle of the challenge. It's one of the hardest finishing holes on the PGA Tour and played as the most difficult on the course last year. It's a 478 yard par 4, uphill with a creek on the left and bunkers on the right.

Skills required: Playing the par-5s. It's imperative here to make the most of the four par-5s on the course. It's a tough layout (19th hardest on last season's PGA Tour) and there are few "gimme" birdies out there. The winner will play the long holes well and pick up some shots. To do that they will have to drive the ball well - Last year, Sean O'Hair averaged almost 320 yards from the tee and hit more than half the fairways.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?