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Woods, McIlroy bring buzz back to Bethpage Black

By Doug Ferguson

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Aug. 23 2012 6:16 a.m. MDT

"It really focuses you from the get-go, a pairing like that," McIlroy said. "I feel every time I've played with Tiger, he's sort of brought the best out of me. I really feel focused and obviously want to play well. I'm looking forward to it. I really enjoy his company. I know we'll have a good time out there. I'm keeping him waiting here, so I'll stop talking about him."

But that's all anyone is talking about. The $10 million prize can wait until next month at Atlanta.

"It's going to be fun for both of us," Woods said. "I enjoy playing with Rory, and I hope he feels the same way about being in the same group as me. I got a chance this year to play with him at Abu Dhabi in a practice round there, and we really hit it off. He's a great kid and it's great to be around him. What an amazing talent he really is. I just hope that everyone just lets him grow and develop as a player because it's going to be fun to see over the next 20 years how this kid's career is going to pan out."

There was one light moment when McIlroy was asked whether he'd like to face Woods in Sunday singles at the Ryder Cup.

"Yeah, I'd love to go out there," McIlroy said. "I'd love Tiger to go out first and kick his (behind)."

Woods joined in the spontaneous laughter. McIlroy finished up his interview a few minutes later, and as he moved away from the table, he waited by the door until Woods walked by and they slapped hands. If a rivalry blossoms, all indications are it will be a friendly one.

Woods concluded a season without a major for the fourth straight year. There's still plenty of golf on his plate, however. He has four playoff events in five weeks, and then the Ryder Cup, and a chance to be on the winning side for only the second time.

Someone jokingly asked Woods if he was ready for McIlroy to give him a beating in the Ryder Cup if they play each other. Woods leaned toward the microphone, smiled and said, "No."

They might not play against each at Medinah. They'll be on the first tee together at Bethpage Black.

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