|Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods seemed to enjoy playing together on Thursday at the Barclays. (Getty Images)|
It was golf's two biggest names going head to head in the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs, the first real chance that the PGA Tour got to see Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods paired alongside each other and to no surprise of anyone, it didn't disappoint.
Yes, Tiger and Rory both teed off early on Thursday morning at Bethpage Black in the first round of the Barclays and both posted respectable numbers, alongside the third member of the group, Zach Johnson, who also had a good day.
First, let us look at Rory. The PGA Championship winner posted a nice 2-under 69 despite a few excess bogeys that deterred him from having a really solid round (Rory made five birdies but offset those with three bogeys over his last 12 holes).
The really good players have always said they loved playing with Tiger because it brought the best out in them. We've seen that with great champions, like the time Ernie Els and Tiger went at each other at Kapalua in 2000, and also with one-hit major wonders, like Bob May and Rocco Mediate bringing their game to another level when Woods was in their group.
Rory hasn't had a ton of chances to go at Tiger in big events, but you figured he'd play well when he got the chance. McIlroy started off hot, hit some really good shots over his first nine holes, but probably is a little disappointed with the 2-under 69.
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Tiger's round was the complete opposite. Woods started off pretty slow, making just one birdie over his first 10 holes, but got things going on his final nine holes, making three birdies to post that 3-under 68 that has him well in the hunt at the site of his second U.S. Open victory.
It was an interesting chemistry from Tiger and Rory out there. They both seem to have a ton of respect for one another (the joke Rory said about "kicking Tiger's ass" at the Ryder Cup only came when he noticed Woods was in the back of the press room awaiting his time in front of the microphone), and as you can see in the photo above, enjoyed themselves on the stroll around Bethpage.
Woods has always been complimentary of Rory's golf game, as has McIlroy on Tiger, and when they get the chance to tee it up together, and really see how the other plays in a competitive atmosphere, it's fun to watch (almost like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal going at each other early in Nadal's career).
The fun thing about this is that the week keeps going. Tiger and Rory are out together again on Friday and we'll get to see how much fun they want to have as the tournament heats up. Both are under par, and will be completely fine with their scores on the opening day of an event at a course like Bethpage, but the chumminess might wear off as rounds rack up as both are not only vying for this event, but for the $10 million bonus that the FedEx Cup gives out to the champion.