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NY native gets 'a thrill' practicing with Tiger

The one thing that absolutely, positively nobody said during Andrew Svoboda's practice round Tuesday, even the close friends and St. John's buddies who came out specifically to watch him, was, "Who's that guy playing with Svoboda?"

Tiger Woods was the other golfer in that pairing, which also included a special surprise appearance by Phil Mickelson's caddie Jim (Bones) MacKay. It was quite a moment for the 29-year-old from Larchmont who got into the U.S. Open as a replacement. He figured he might as well make the most of the week.

"I saw Tiger was playing at 7 a.m. I figured I'd sign up to play with him." Svoboda said. "Why not?"

The question was, what did Woods think about having someone who was first alternate at Purchase last week tagging along? "I don't think they ask him, you just sign up for whatever time you want," the former St. John's star said.

Actually, aside from both being in the field this week, the two do have one thing in common. Both have won an Open on Bethpage Black. Woods, of course, won the U.S. Open in 2002, Svoboda the New York State Open in 2007. That didn't come up in their conversation, though.

"I did meet him at Winged Foot, on the 10th tee in a practice round," Svoboda said, referring to the 2006 Open, the first of his three in the past four years. "But it was a lot more fun to play with him. Pretty amazing. The guy is the best. It was good learning."

Not that there was a lot of pointed give-and-take during the nine holes they played together Tuesday, the back nine. When he was asked what they did talk about, Svoboda said, "About the course. And he asked me if I was a member at Winged Foot, I said yes. That was about it. It's a practice round, I'm obviously not going to bother the guy."

Woods was busy talking with his swing coach, Hank Haney, as well as his caddie and even MacKay, who was walking the course, getting yardages while waiting for Mickelson to arrive Tuesdat night.

Svoboda has played in the U.S. Amateur and mini-tour and Nationwide Tour events. He made the cut at the U.S. Open last year and played with Davis Love and Justin Leonard. So he knows what good golfers and major champions look like from close range. Woods was different.

"Just the way he handles himself," Svoboda said.

That included a hearty handshake as they left the 18th green.

"It's just a thrill," said the man who will play with Henrik Stenson and Steve Stricker in the first two rounds. "I've already played with Tiger this week so it's a pretty good start."

Imagine if he were able to play with Woods on Sunday. "That," Svoboda said, "might be a little bit more exciting."

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