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Tiger Woods draws galleries but can't find game

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Tiger Woods wanted a return to normalcy when he arrived for the Quail Hollow Championship after a five-month odyssey of revelation and regret in his personal life.

But the toll on his professional life is just beginning to be seen as Woods plays in his second tournament back from a hiatus and first regular PGA Tour event after his return at the Masters earlier this month. Those who believed that Woods had lost fans along the way might be wrong. Instead, he seems to have lost the edge on his game, at least for now.

He shot a two-over-par 74 on Thursday to fall nine strokes behind the leader, Bo Van Pelt, and finds himself in danger of missing the cut for the first time since the British Open.
Asked if his performance here was more a sign of the layoff than his fourth-place finish at Augusta, Woods said: "I don't know. I guess you could say that."

Woods drove his tee shots into the water on 17 and 18 and played a three-hole stretch at four over. He hit only four fairways and opted not to practice after his round.

"Sometimes when I shoot a high round, I put the clubs away -- or break a few," he said. "I'm just going to let it go today."

Woods did not pay much attention to a crowd that displayed mostly admiration and adoration for a golfer who remains the subject of headlines for his admitted extramarital affairs. There was mostly polite applause from fans -- Woods's game gave them little to cheer about except for a few head-turning shots, one a drive through a small hole between trees on 15 that helped save par.

"I just came out -- it's a beautiful day, it's a beautiful sport," Marilyn Matheus of Columbia, S.C., said as she followed Woods around the course. "His personal life is just that: personal."
It was a sentiment shared by many fans, apparently. Despite a significant police presence both on foot and Segway throughout the course, including four officers who followed the threesome of Woods, Stewart Cink and Ángel Cabrera, there was apparently no trouble.

"Tiger is just a golfer," said Obi Anyafo, 55, a Nigerian native who has lived in Charlotte for 20 years and who brought his son, Andrew, 10, to watch Woods.

"He's not diminished or anything like that," Anyafo said. "He plays golf well. What he does with his personal life is between him and his family, and I use that as a teaching moment for my son. I say, 'Well, you should know who your role models are.' I'm the role model for my son. Not Tiger. We watch Tiger because he's a good golfer. He does well with the clubs in his hands. That's the bottom line."

Not as well as Phil Mickelson these days. Mickelson, coming off his victory at the Masters, arrived in Charlotte as one of the favorites with a fan base almost as strong as Woods's.
"With Phil's recent win at the Masters and his devotion to family and cancer awareness," said John Sullivan, 61, an insurance agent from Charlotte, "I think this really elevates his status in the golf world.

"We were talking about the fact that this might have put Tiger a little lower than the angels."
But he still draws a crowd. There were 30,000 tickets sold for Thursday's first round and many came to follow him. Woods has always been warmly welcomed in this conservative banking town, and it was little surprise that he chose to play his first nonmajor here.

"As far as my playing schedule, it's kind of up in the air," Woods said Wednesday. "I'm trying to get back to normalcy in that. But Charlotte has always been one of my favorite tour stops. The golf course, we don't get a chance to play golf courses like this very often and it's always a treat to play a golf course like this."

Asked if he was beginning to live a normal life again -- normal as defined by Woods -- he said, "No, there's paparazzi everywhere, at home, helicopters here and there, people driving by, paparazzi camping out in front of the gates. That hasn't changed."

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