But for severe weather expected later Friday afternoon and night in Carmel, Ind., golf’s new power couple, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, would be meeting at the first tee on Saturday for their third consecutive golf date at Crooked Stick. Instead, though the two biggest stars in the game matched birdies on the 18th hole and finished in a tie for second with Ryan Moore at 12-under, each will hit breakfast balls with two other guys in the morning.
In place of the twosomes that mark weekend play on tour, golfers on Saturday will go off the first and 10th tees in threesomes starting at 11 a.m. ET.
McIlroy, who’ll be part of the final threesome with leader Vijay Singh (-13) and Moore, who finished ahead of McIlWood (TigerMac?), signaled his enthusiasm for meeting Woods potentially for the fifth time in two weeks in the FedEx Cup series. With early-round groupings determined by standings in the FedEx Cup race, the two began their golf dates on Thursday and Friday at The Barclays late last month.
“Yeah, that would be great,” the 23-year-old heir apparent told reporters about the prospect of another head-to-head matchup with golf’s grand old man, before tour officials assigned third-round tee times. “It always brings a bit of excitement, a bit of a buzz playing with him. We'll see what happens, but if I am playing with him, I'm looking forward to it.”
Alas, it was not to be, although, with neither golfer able to bring his A game to the course on Friday, there was not as much fun and frivolity as there had been in previous meetings. Indeed, scramble mode seemed to take precedence over yukking it up on the rain-softened greens and fairways, where it was lift, clean, and place for the second straight day. At round's end, smiles, gentlemanly handshakes, and solo interviews took the place of Thursday’s near-bear hug and shared microphone.
"Today was a struggle," Woods said after posting a bogey-free 5-under 67, thanks to three birdies on his final four holes that included two in a row to end his day. "I fought hard to shoot a number today, and the way I was hitting it, I figured if I could get to double digits under par it would be a good accomplishment. I got a couple more out of it."
Woods’ flawless scorecard belied a few adventurous ups and downs for the 14-time major winner. At the 483-yard par 4, for example, he lost his ball into heavy rough on the right, found the fairway with his second shot, and saved par from seven feet after knocking a sand wedge close from 65 yards.
He had a few more of those, which was not all that surprising, given the problems off the tee that had him tied for 58th (out of 70) in driving accuracy this week.
“I didn't have it with my swing, just kind of fighting it around here,” said Woods, who will keep an eye on McIlroy from the penultimate grouping with Lee Westwood and Bo Van Pelt on Saturday. “I was grinding hard, staying as patient as possible.”
McIlroy, who recorded an eagle-3 on the par-5 ninth, bounced around the Pete Dye track as well. He carded four bogeys and six birdies on a day when he said he was “pretty happy” to finish with a 68.
“I put myself in a great position going into the weekend,” McIlroy said. “The round wasn't quite as good as it was yesterday. I didn't hit the ball quite as well, but I still managed to get around in 4‑under par. I'm very pleased about that.”
About sharing the tee with Woods, McIlroy said he watched his tee-mate swing but he was playing his own game.
“For the most part I'm just trying to shoot the best score possible out there that I can,” he said, “and that's all I'm really trying to do.”
With each golfer scuffling to go low on a day lousy with red numbers (Westwood and Padraig Harrington shared the honors for low score for the day, at 7-under), McIlroy conceded there was less camaraderie inside the ropes on Friday.
“I think we needed to concentrate a little bit more,” he said. “Things were sort of coming easy yesterday. We needed to concentrate out there and try and shoot the best score possible, and we obviously both did that.”