For the first time in his career Rory McIlroy got a close-up look at Tiger Woods inside the ropes.
The Ulster star played with Woods, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson in one of two star-studded skins games on the eve of The Memorial at Muirfield Village.
It wasn’t always vintage Woods but the current world No 1 made sure the young pretender got a taste of his talent.
He started with four straight threes (birdie-eagle-par-birdie) and eventually won six skins, four of them in a final hole “chip-off” when no-one in his group could get closer than 10-feet on a long, downhill chip from behind the 18th green.
Woods hit several wayward tee shots and a couple of loose irons but putted brilliantly on greens that were running extra-fast - 14 on the stimp.
One US website said that Woods told McIlroy, “Nice putt kid”, when the Holywood youngster holed a curling 10 footer to match his birdie and save a skin on their fourth hole (the 13th).
But Woods simply said: “Good putt there.”
According to ESPN, McIlroy played down their first on-course meeting -
“I didn’t expect anything different. I’ve been around him for the last couple of years,” McIlroy said. “I have had lunch with him and hit balls beside him on the range, chatted and stuff. It was good. He’s a normal guy. He just hits the ball pretty good and putts pretty good and we get it all together, he usually wins.”
On the 15th green, Woods sidled up to McIlroy, grabbed his putter and took a couple pretend whacks at an imaginary ball.
Woods, returning to action after three weeks off with a neck injury, said he felt fine and was ready to return to competition.
“It was a good time,” said Woods, a four-time Memorial winner. “I haven’t played with Rory yet. It was fun to see him play in person.”
If Woods was good, in parts, Phil Mickelson was sensational as he won all nine skins in his match with tournament host Jack Nicklaus, Ernie Els, Sean O’Hair and Kenny Perry.
Nicklaus said: “I think he deserved to win every skin.”