The reason for the excitement? Simple, Tiger Woods.
The reason for the controversy? Simple, again ' Tiger Woods.
The American phenom originally committed to the tournament in April 2001 at the urging of his caddie, Steve Williams (who hails from New Zealand), as well as prominent New Zealand golfer Michael Campbell.
He also collected his per-usual $2 million appearance fee from tournament organizer Promoter 2000 Ltd.
However, this action seemed to have a backlash effect on the events fan base.
Weeklong ticket prices for the Open immediately jumped from $22 last year to $198 this time around, upsetting patrons and causing a potential boycott.
Campbell and several other players were also incensed over the price hikes and threatened not to play, but the problems were seemingly put to rest after organizers allowed for children under the age of 16 to enter free of cost.
However, new problems have arisen as of late.
A mysterious letter containing threatening remarks and cyanide arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Wellington over the weekend, which ' while not directly aimed at Woods ' were clearly due to the fact that Woods was to play, according to Assistant Police Commissioner Jon White.
It was clear the threats had been made because Woods, the worlds No. 1 golfer, was playing, White told the Associated Press.
In any case, Woods has remained steadfast for the tournament.
After being assured from tournament officials that security measures would be extremely tight, Woods confirmed his arrival.
Things like this do happen, he said after finishing the Mercedes Championships in a tie for 10th place. You have to go on living your life. Its unfortunate that people have these types of views and do these types of acts.
While chances are good that no acts of ill will will occur, chances are also good that Woods should win the tournament.
Besides Campbell, the only other players of worldwide stature included in the field are Craig Parry, Nick OHern, Brett Ogle, Lucas Parsons, Brett Rumford and defending champion David Smail.
Smail won the event last year with a 7-under-par 273 total score at The Grange Country Club.
However, Woods caddie Williams calls this years host course at Paraparaumu Beach his home track, and figuring Woods ended his fourth round at Hawaii in 65, his game looks to be coming around.
Of the situation at hand, he commented: The tournament officials have done a wonderful job of organizing the event. They assured me that everything is going to be safe and theyll do the best they can, not only for myself but for the rest of the players and all the people that come out to the tournament.