Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have found humor in Greg Norman’s recent assessment that the former No. 1 Woods is “intimidated” by new No. 1 MIlroy.
“No one is the size of (linebacker) Ray Lewis who is going to hit me coming over the middle, so this is a different kind of sport,” Woods said Wednesday on the eve of the 30-player Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. “We go out there and play our own game and see where it falls at the end of the day.”
Norman, who was ranked No. 1 in the world for a longer period (331 weeks) than any player other than Woods (623 weeks), told FoxSports.com Tuesday that he believes McIlroy’s recent run of three victories — including a major — in his past four starts proves he’s supplanting Woods as the best player in the game.
“What I’m seeing is that Tiger’s really intimidated by Rory,” Norman told the website. “When have you ever seen him intimidated by another player? Never. But I think he knows his time’s up and that’s normal; these things tend to go in 15-year cycles.”
McIlroy heads into Tour Championship atop the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings.
“It’s got to be the hair,” Woods quipped, referring to McIlroy’s curly locks. The two players will be paired in the final group Thursday at East Lake when the tournament begins.
Woods, 36, said he’s not been intimidated by any golfer. “It’s not like you go over the middle and some guy is 255 pounds and going to take your block off. This is about executing and going about your own business and see where it ends up at the end of the day. It’s just the nature of our sport, which is different than some sports. … Here, no one is affecting any shots.”
McIlroy, 23, captured his second major title at the PGA Championship last month, winning by eight strokes — the same margin he won by at the 2011 U.S. Open. Woods won the last of his 14 major titles in 2008, but coming off an injury-plagued 2011, has won three times this year on the PGA Tour and is ranked second in the. world behind McIlroy
McIlroy’s four victories this year on the PGA Tour is one more than Woods, who finished ahead of McIlroy at both the U.S. Open and Open Championship. Both players tied for 40th at the Masters; Woods tied for 11th at the PGA won by McIlroy.
“How can I intimidate Tiger Woods?” McIlroy said. “I mean, the guy’s got 70-whatever (74) PGA tour wins, 14 majors. He’s been the biggest thing ever in our sport. I mean, how could some little 23-year-old from Northern Ireland with a few wins come up and intimidate him? It’s just not possible. I don’t know where he (Norman) got that from, but it’s not true.”
McIlroy, who has played several rounds with Woods recently and become friendly with him, noted that Woods was calling him “The Intimidator” on Wednesday morning. Asked if he was ever intimidated by Woods, McIlroy said: “I don’t think intimidated is the right word. More just in awe of what’s he done, of his accomplishments, of his achievements, but never intimidated.”
Thursday’s round in Atlanta will be the fifth time McIlroy and Woods have played together this year on the PGA Tour. They also played the first three rounds together at the Abu Dhabi Championship.