Rory McIlroy (L) of Northern Ireland talks with Tiger Woods of the U.S. as they approach the first green during round one of the BMW Championship golf tournament in Carmel, Indiana September 6, 2012. (REUTERS)
With all due respect to late NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt, there's a new kid in town.
Meet Rory McIlroy: The Intimidator.
Apparently Earnhardt earned that nickname by spinning out heated rival Bill Elliott in 1987. McIlroy, a young upstart from -- this will hurt NASCAR faithful the most -- Europe, has taken the Intimidator tag by throwing not-so-heated rival Tiger Woods for a loop in these FedEx Cup Playoffs.
Don't worry, race fans, McIlroy was just joking when he mentioned the name associated with your beloved Tiger. It was in response to comments from Greg Norman, who told FoxSports.com recently that "Tiger's really intimidated by Rory," adding, "When have you ever seen him intimidated by another player? Never."
Both McIlroy, ranked No. 1 in the world, and Woods responded to the Shark's musings Wednesday during their news conferences for the Tour Championship at East Lake, and that's where the youngster joked about the nickname.
"(Tiger has) got a new nickname for me, actually," said McIlroy, laughing. "He calls me The Intimidator."
Then McIlroy quickly dispelled Norman's notions.
"How can I intimidate Tiger Woods? I mean, the guy has got (74) PGA Tour wins, 14 majors," the two-time major winner said. "I mean, he has been the biggest thing ever in our sport. How could some little 23"'year"'old from Northern Ireland with a few wins come up and intimidate him. It's just not possible. I don't know where (Norman) got that from, but it's not true."
Asked if he ever had been intimidated by Woods -- a factor which was said to be a part of Tiger's aura during his glory days, for which Mcilroy wasn't around -- the youngster admitted that, no, he hadn't, but that doesn't mean there isn't a level of respect.
"No, I don't think intimidated is the right word," he said. "More just in awe of what he has done, of his accomplishments, of his achievements, but never intimidated."
Woods, of course, took it in stride and had some fun of his own when asked about Norman's comments about McIlroy's intimidation factor.
"It has got to be the hair," he said.
The fact is, McIlroy is on an incredible run -- a win at the Tour Championship would be his third consecutive and fourth in a month -- and whether he is intimidated or not, Woods has been right there with him most of the time but has failed to get the job done.
Woods admitted that it may be unfair, but if he wins the Tour Championship, he takes the FedEx Cup and the $10-million prize.
If he doesn't manage to best McIlroy this time, there will be a nickname that fits.
With apologies to Sabres fans, Rory will be The Dominator.
RYDER CUP SHOOTOUT
Luke Donald got a preview of the Ryder Cup venue, Medinah Golf Club near Chicago, this week and by all accounts, it's going to be a shootout if the weather is decent.
"Great day out at Medinah," the European Ryder Cup player wrote on Twitter Monday. "As long as the weather is decent expect to see plenty of birdies flying about next week. #softgreens #norough."
U.S. captain Davis Love is said to be setting up the course to favour his team of bombers (such as Dustin Johnson) by cutting down the rough -- the first cut reportedly seven yards wide, rather than the typical one yard -- at a course he has, in the past, called "a big ball park."
He also wants the greens fast, again thinking it could help his squad.
But beware, Mr. Love, these things work both ways and the Euros have a few bombers of their own.
If the weather is nice and the course plays the way Donald and Love think it may, it should be fun to watch.
IT'S NOT THE SIZE
There may be just 30 guys playing this week at the Tour Championship, but don't let the small field fool you, Nick Watney says.
Watney, who comes into this week third in FedEx Cup points behind McIlroy and Woods and with a chance to win the $10-million prize, says whoever wins this week will have earned it the hard way.
"The field size would suggest that this is a pretty easy tournament to win, but I think the quality of the players here, the guy that wins this tournament would probably win a full-field event," he said Wednesday. "If this field had 156 guys, the guy that wins this week would probably win that tournament as well.
"These are the best of the best, and it's exciting to be alongside them."
RORY FOR POY
Even if Woods wins the Tour Championship, McIlroy should be PGA Tour player of the year.
A Woods win would give him four, same as McIlroy, but the youngster's PGA Championship major victory trumps the FedEx Cup.
Woods knows it; he always has held himself to the standard that majors come above all else. But he's not yet ready to concede the award.
"I don't know, we'll see," he said, tersely, on Wednesday when the question was asked.
ON THE TEE
East Lake Golf Club (7,319 yards, par 70), Atlanta
* Can Rory McIlroy make it three in a row and win his first FedEx Cup title, or can Tiger Woods win the one that counts with $10-million on the line?