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Horschel relishing opportunity to play alongside Woods

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SAN DIEGO - Having played his way into contention through 36 holes, Billy Horschel now has a Saturday tee time with tournament leader Tiger Woods awaiting him. It's an opportunity he plans to relish - even comparing it to a prior encounter with another popular Nike player.

'I know there are going to be crowds. It's nothing that I haven't dealt with before,' explained Horschel, who shot a 3-under 69 Friday on the South Course. 'I played the Walker Cup in 2007 over in Northern Ireland and there was a guy I competed against three times called Rory McIlroy. So I've dealt with crowds.'

At 9-under 135, Horschel heads to the weekend trailing the 14-time major champion by two shots. The 26-year-old admittedly admired the play of Woods while growing up, noting that their first interaction actually dates back to nearly four years ago.

'It's going to be exciting. He's one of the golfers I looked up to when I was a young kid,' he noted. 'He was gracious enough to give me a spot right out of college at his tournament (AT&T National) in 2009. It's going to be a good day no matter what.'

After successfully navigating through PGA Tour Q-School for the third time in four attempts this past December, Horschel has opened with 10 straight rounds of 70 or better in 2013. He credits the quick turnaround as part of the reason for his early success in 2013.

'I didn't really have an off-season,' said Horschel, whose career best result on the PGA Tour came at last year's True South Classic, where he finished third. 'My game had been pretty good going towards the end of the year.'

Playing Saturday at 9:40 a.m. local time with Woods and Casey Wittenberg, Horschel noted that the early tee time may prove beneficial for his frame of mind.

'It helps a lot. Obviously I've been in a couple of final groups...and waiting until 1:30, 2:00 I didn't know what to do with myself,' he added. 'So it's nice to be out here early.'