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Curiosity, hope, crowds follow Woods

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PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla.—He is the only two-time winner on the PGA Tour this season. He has been No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings the past six weeks.

And when he sees the No. 544 player in the world this morning on the first tee of the Honda Classic, these could be his first words.

“Hi, I'm Patton Kizzire.”

Kizzire can't recall meeting Tiger Woods except in passing. That would have been last year at Torrey Pines, the only time they were in the field.

The 31-year-old from Alabama, who is the image of southern comfort with his polite demeanour, is the latest to experience the hype surrounding Woods in his return from a fourth back surgery.

“First time," he said yesterday. "It's something I've looked forward to as a kid. I always looked up to him.”

It's not easy being Woods, who has been golf's biggest star since his 12-shot victory at the 1997 Masters. He copes with the largest galleries, the incessant movement, the endless distraction.

Rory McIlroy played with him last week at Riviera and suggested the gallery costs Woods a half-shot a round.

But at least he's used to it.

Justin Thomas played with Woods in the Bahamas before only a few hundred people. He experienced the full Tiger show during the opening two rounds at Riviera and described it as “pretty wild.”

The next day is when he appreciated the amount of attention Woods gets.

“It was just bizarre because those first two days, there's so many people,” he said.

“And then Saturday morning, there was nobody. Rory and I were walking up to the tee and we're like, 'Where is everybody? Does he really bring that many people?'”

Yes. And odds are, they will be seeing Kizzire for the first time.

Also in the group is Brandt Snedeker, who has been through the drill. Snedeker played with Woods in the final round of the BMW Championship that Woods won in 2009 by eight shots.

He played with him in the penultimate group of the final round at the 2012 British Open, and the opening two rounds of The Players Championship when Woods won in 2013. More recently, he played with Woods on Saturday at Torrey Pines.

Woods is playing PGA National for the first time since 2014, when he withdrew during the final round with back spasms.

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