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Tiger Woods chases Rory McIlroy at BMW Championship

Tiger Woods was one shot behind Rory McIlroy, who birdied his last two holes for an 8-under 64 and was in a four-way tie for the lead. Tiger Woods made a 30-foot chip in to birdie the last hole of the first round of the BMW Championship.

By Doug FergusonAssociated Press / September 7, 2012

Tiger Woods, left, and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, shake after the first round of the BMW Championship PGA golf tournament at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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Carmel, Indiana

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy seem to be spending a lot of time together lately. That includes the top of a busy leaderboard at the BMW Championship.

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The biggest star in golf and his heir apparent put on a dazzling show Thursday at Crooked Stick, where the gallery caught a glimpse of the best players in the world for the first time since the 1991 PGA Championship.

McIlroy, flawless with his irons, birdied his last two holes for an 8-under 64 and was part of a four-way tie for the lead with Indiana native Bo Van Pelt, U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson and Graham DeLaet, the Canadian who is quietly becoming the Cinderella of these FedEx Cup playoffs.

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Just three days after McIlroy won the Deutsche Bank Championship, he looked just as impressive in the opening round at Crooked Stick.

"He hits it great, putts it great and top of that, he's just a really nice kid," Tiger Woods said in some of his strongest praise ever for another player. "The game of golf is in great hands with him, and he's here to stay."

Woods, who finished two shots behind Monday in Boston, isn't going away quietly. He was only sharp when it came to scoring, making enough birdies to stay in the game, including a 30-foot chip-in on his last hole for a 65.

McIlroy had every reason to be a little flat because of the short turnaround from the Monday finish. But that wasn't the case at the BMW Championship, not with fans lined three-deep down the entire 10th hole to see him and Woods in the same group for the second time in three weeks.

"It definitely gives you a little more of a lift, especially coming off a win and maybe being a little flat," McIlroy said. "You're focused from the get-go, and you want to go out and shoot a good number, and I was able to do that today."

They made it look easy, and Crooked Stick was every bit of that on a broiling afternoon north of Indianapolis.

Because of heavy rains earlier in the week — so fierce on Wednesday that the course was briefly evacuated — players were able to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the short grass before firing at the flags. Really, there was no other option in such soft conditions.

Sixty players in the 70-man field were at par or better. Forty players were in the 60s. All but five holes played under par, and the average score was 69.47.

"I think we all knew it was there for the taking today," said Justin Rose, who opened with a 67 and was tied for 10th.

Vijay Singh had a chance to join the leaders until he drove into the water on the 18th hole, though he escaped with par and was at 65. Luke Donald was in the group at 66. Phil Mickelson was at 69, worth noting because it looked as though he might quadruple bogey on his last hole. Instead, he made birdie.

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