This, friends, this is why we watch golf. Thursday at the BMW Championship, the two greatest players of two generations showed that the game continues to be in very good hands.
Tiger Woods, now forced into the role of elder statesman by injury, scandal, time and a rising talent, nonetheless has the ability to win tournaments, if not necessarily majors. Woods hammered home a first-round 65 in the BMW Championship, a round punctuated by an 18th-hole chip-in birdie.
And then, in a perfect metaphor for the changing times in golf, Rory McIlroy dropped his own birdie on top of Woods to finish his own round at 64.
Damn. Ice cold, Rory. It was part of a combined 16 birdie/one-eagle round that was some of the best hole-by-hole, anything-you-can-do golf you'll see.
McIlroy now shares the lead with Bo Van Pelt, Webb Simpson and Graham DeLaet. But, no offense to those fine gentlemen ... nobody cares. The story right now is the two best players in golf turning in the best possible rounds they could ... and then saluting one another's achievements.
"It's fun to play with him, and he's just an amazing talent," Woods said afterward. "You watch him swing the club and watch him putt and play, he doesn't have a lot of weaknesses. You can see that in the next decade or so as he really matures and understands some of the nuances of the game, he's only going to get better, and that's kind of fun to see."
Coming from Woods, this is the equivalent of passing the torch, of understanding that even if he's not done, the sun is starting to set. Sure, he'll still win tournaments, perhaps even a major or two ... but we're now officially in the era of Rory.
In marked contrast to some pairings, where the players seem to be on opposite continents, McIlroy and Woods seem to enjoy each other's company. They chat on the course, and Golf Channel reported that they lunched together after their round. (BFFs! BFFs!)
So what do they talk about? "Anything, everything, whatever," McIlroy hedged unhelpfully. "Normal stuff, about this, about that. I've always enjoyed playing with Tiger, and every time that we're paired up we seem to have a good time." As do we, Mr. McIlroy.
We spent most of the 2000s looking for a rival for Woods in Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and others. Seems we were just a few years too early.
The BMW Championship continues through the weekend, and with the Tour Championship and the Ryder Cup coming up, September is shaping up to be one heck of a month of golf.