Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy congratulate each other after they shot low… (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated…)
When Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were grouped together in the first round of the BMW Championship on Thursday at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., it was the sixth time they've played together in competition.
Woods, never one to gush about an opponent, came away impressed when McIlroy shot an eight-under-par 64 to claim a share of the first-round lead.
"This is the next generation of guys coming out," said Woods, who shot a 65 to stay within a shot of the leaders. "He hits it great, putts it great, and on top of that, he’s just a really nice kid.
"The game of golf is in great hands with him, and he’s here to stay."
McIlroy is tied with Americans Webb Simpson and Bo Van Pelt as well as Canadian Graham DeLaet. Woods is tied for fifth with Vijay Singh.
It's a star-studded field of 70 players in the second-to-last FedEx Cup playoff tournament. The top 30 will advance to next week's Tour Championship in Atlanta, where the winner of the FedEx Cup will pocket $10 million.
McIlroy seems to enjoy being paired with top opponents, particularly Woods.
"I’ve always enjoyed playing with Tiger, and every time that we’re paired up, we seem to have a good time," McIlroy said.
The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland, the top-ranked player in the world, is coming off a victory Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston. Playing in the same group Thursday with Woods, the former No. 1 player in the world, in front of a huge gallery was a bonus.
"It definitely gives you a little more of a lift, especially coming off a win and maybe being a little flat," McIlroy said of playing alongside Woods. "You're focused from the get-go, and you want to go out and shoot a good number, and I was able to do that."
McIlroy and Woods, who are in the same group as Barclays winner Nick Watney, have a 9:39 a.m. tee time (6:39 a.m. Pacific) on Friday.
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