- Associated Press - Thursday, September 6, 2012

CARMEL, Ind. — This was a role reversal in more ways than one.

Two weeks ago when the FedEx Cup playoffs began, Rory McIlroy was just starting his interview when he noticed Tiger Woods waiting his turn at the back of the room. It prompted the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland to jokingly say he would like to go off first against Woods in the Ryder Cup and “kick his (behind).” They both laughed, and later had lunch together at Bethpage.

On the day before the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick, it was McIlroy who came into the back of the room to wait on Woods. And while there were no playful exchanges, a question that came McIlroy’s way after Woods had left showed how much times are changing.

Woods is 36. Do you still look for him to be back winning majors?

“He’s old, huh?” McIlroy said. “Yeah, for sure. … He’s had his chances in the majors going into the weekend, and it just hasn’t quite happened for him. But for sure, he’s going to keep putting himself up there in position, and he’s going to have a lot of chances to win tournaments and majors.”

These are the questions no one ever asked about Woods.

But then, there hasn’t been another player since Woods went on the first of several big runs who was worthy of getting such a question. McIlroy elevated his position even more last week when he closed with a 67 to win the Deutsche Bank Championship.

The victory put him at No. 1 in three categories — the world ranking, the PGA Tour money list and the FedEx Cup, which could set up a showdown in two weeks at the Tour Championship.

Both have three wins, although McIlroy became the heavy favorite as PGA Tour player of the year because one of his wins was a major; that eight-shot win at Kiawah Island in the PGA Championship last month. Majors are big in the minds of players, who do the voting on this award, and Woods might have to win the next two events to be considered.

For now, they will be in the same group for the opening two rounds at the BMW Championship, which starts Thursday. Players are grouped based on the FedEx Cup list, so Woods and McIlroy also played together at The Barclays. Woods got him by five shots, though McIlroy had the better weekend and finished ahead.

“I think it definitely creates some more interest for the fans and for golf in general,” McIlroy said. “I don’t see any challenge in it. I mean, it’s just good fun. It’s good fun to be out there and have such an atmosphere and such a buzz around a grouping like that, and it’s just nice to be a part of.”

Barclays winner Nick Watney will be joining them.

The buzz might have existed even without Woods and McIlroy in the same group. The highest level of golf returns to Crooked Stick for the first time since the 1991 PGA Championship, when a PGA Tour rookie who was the ninth alternate — John Daly — drove up from Arkansas and overpowered the Pete Dye design.

No one in the 70-man field at the BMW Championship played in that PGA. Davis Love III and Billy Mayfair were around back then, but both were eliminated in the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Ernie Els remembers, even if he was a thousand miles away.

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