It's not surprising that Woods is playing good soldier. One of the unsung motivations for signing McIlroy is that it allows Nike to start using Tiger again. Since his sex scandal three years ago he has been treated as if he were radioactive, but McIlroy's arrival allows for Tiger's graceful transition into the elder statesman role. Clearly Nike has grand plans for the duo. Davis offered a glimpse of the company's thinking when she said, "Nicklaus and Palmer became so iconic not only because of their individual accomplishments but also because they were marketed together."
Woods likes McIlroy, but he hasn't lost all of his edginess—Tiger seems to enjoy pointing out that he has never, ever swapped out all 14 clubs at once. But overall Woods has been supportive of his new stablemate. "It's always an adjustment whenever you change equipment, but Rory will be fine," he says. "He's a smart kid."
It hasn't taken long for McIlroy to grasp what he's signed up for. In his hands he no longer holds mere pieces of golf equipment. They are now, for better or worse, a defining part of his narrative. With a tight smile McIlroy says, "I just need to keep winning tournaments, and everything will be fine."