SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (Reuters) - Tiger Woods is not necessarily the man to beat at the U.S. Open this week but he is still the man everyone wants to see at Shinnecock Hills.
The 14-times major champion played only nine holes on Tuesday, teeing off at the crack of dawn accompanied by last-start Memorial winner Bryson DeChambeau and world number one Dustin Johnson.
He completed his work, did a little practice, spoke to the media and left the course to return to his luxury yacht at nearby Sag Harbor before the sun was even over the yardarm.
But not before thousands of fans, at least those who avoided the traffic jams outside the course, had taken the chance to catch a glimpse of one of sport’s most famous celebrities.
Woods also remains a huge draw with the media and although he predictably said nothing noteworthy on Tuesday, he still drew a standing-room only audience at his news conference.
Seats were easier to come by, however, when the game’s current crop of top players, including Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Jason Day, paraded through the media centre.
“I think everyone realises it’s different when he (Woods) turns up,” said former world number one Day, no longer in awe of Woods the person after nearly a decade on tour, but still in awe of his achievements, which include 79 PGA Tour victories.
“Everyone wants to see what he looks like, or how big is he, or just see the myth behind Tiger Woods.
“I know I was like that when I first saw Tiger. I wanted to go on the putting green and putt around next to him, and stare at him.”
Yet Day had a different attitude when he was on the practice green on Tuesday, and Woods arrived, with hundreds of fans in tow.
“I told him to go away,” Day joked.
Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Toby Davis