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That was a good sign, because even for the second of four tournaments, the FedEx Cup playoffs already have turned up a notch.

While it’s traditional for the top three players in the standings to be in the same group for the opening rounds of the playoff events, this is the first time it features the top three players in the world ranking.

“It’s exciting, I know for me, to have it 1, 2, 3 in the world,” Woods said. “It also goes to show you that those are three hottest players in the world.”

These three players last played together in an opening round in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, the first time the USGA used the world ranking to group top players. Woods went on to win his 14th major that week while playing on a shattered left knee with two stress fractures. Mickelson played the mighty South Course without a driver.

“The buildup to that event was huge,” Scott said. “And just to be even the third wheel in that group was really something I’ll remember forever. So it might be the same tomorrow. I don’t know, but it will be fun no matter what. We’re all playing really well this year. So hopefully, we can push each other along and make a lot of birdies, and it will be an enjoyable couple of days.”

So who’s the third wheel now?

“It would be me again,” Scott said with a laugh.

Those three players also are seen as the top candidates as player of the year _ Scott and Mickelson both have a major among their two PGA Tour wins (Mickelson picked up another significant win at the Scottish Open), while Woods has five wins and no majors. Woods is still the heavy favorite, though a FedEx Cup title for Scott and Mickelson might change that.

Rory McIlroy is the defending champion, and still looking for his first win this year.

Woods, meanwhile, is at a stage of the season where his vernacular has changed. He used to talk about “reps” and “traj” (trajectory) and “the process.” These days, he’s using terms related to his treatment like “activation” and “firing sequence” and “protocol.”

Woods is 37 and has four knee operations behind him. Some nagging injuries this year aren’t a concern.

“It’s part of playing sports, you know?” Woods said. “We push it and we have little knick-knack injuries that happen. And I’ve had plenty of surgeries over the course of my career, starting in `94 when I was in college. So it’s the nature of what we do as an athlete. I try to do a lot of preventive things, but the nature of it is that we’re subjecting our bodies to things that probably it wasn’t meant to do.”