Birds are chirping, lush grass covers the landscape, and marquee golfers are awakening from their annual slumber.
The post-Masters lull is over. For the next two weeks, big-name players will actually compete in tournaments.
We're not making this up. Top-10 players are in the field at this week's Quail Hollow Championship. Even more will be at the Players Championship.
Four of the top five in the World Ranking -- Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood and Jim Furyk -- are teeing off on Thursday in Charlotte, N.C. And virtually every top-100 player will compete next week in the PGA Tour's flagship event.
Golf having a strong 1-2 punch shouldn't be big news. But it will be for as long as independent contractors call the shots.
Tournaments, whose title sponsors can't be guaranteed a Woods or Mickelson appearance, will be there for the player. The player will be there for the tournament if said event coincides with his schedule.
Other sports somehow manage to convince their players to participate in all scheduled games. What if Tony Romo only wanted to play in, say, divisional and playoff contests?
Figuring out the schedule of golf's top stars is about as simple as predicting which teams will play in what bowl.
Woods took a four-month break to deal with the fallout from extramarital affairs and has played one event, the Masters.
"As far as my playing schedule, it's kind of up in the air," Woods told reporters Wednesday. "I'm trying to get back to normalcy in that."
The HP Byron Nelson Championship used to have fields like Quail Hollow. But the Irving event's date (May 20-23) has not fit Woods' schedule since 2005. Mickelson has played only one Nelson in that span.
Mickelson said during the Shell Houston Open that he planned to play the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial but was unsure about the Nelson.
Nelson has competition:
The Nelson has lost some international players to the BMW PGA Championship. The European Tour's flagship event runs the same week.
Ian Poulter, who played the past two Nelsons, will be at the BMW. So will 1995 Nelson champ Ernie Els and Luke Donald, who had five straight top-19s at the Nelson.
However, Yuta Ikeda, No. 1 in earnings on the Japan Golf Tour last season, will play the Nelson on a foreign exemption.
Woods and Mickelson have played in the same event 172 times as pros. Woods has 53 victories with Mickelson in the field, Mickelson has 14. . . . . Jim Furyk has finished first, second, T-7 and T-11 at Quail Hollow. But he missed the cut in his other two starts. . . . Australia's Stuart Appleby tied for eighth at the Verizon Heritage and was sixth last week in New Orleans. Those are his first back-to-back top-10s since opening the 2008 season with five straight. . . . Bobby Clampett and Jodie Mudd make their Champions Tour debuts this week in Mississippi. Fortunately for them, Fred Couples is back on the PGA Tour for two weeks.