Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are all laughs ahead of their latest mano-a-mano in the Tour Championship. (John Bazemore / AP)

This time, the playful patter and nonchalance that have marked the pairing of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy all summer was sparked by Greg Norman, just ahead of the Tour Championship that begins tomorrow.

Norman told Foxsports.com on Tuesday: “What I'm seeing is that Tiger's really intimidated by Rory. When have you ever seen him intimidated by another player? Never. But I think he knows his time's up and that's normal; these things tend to go in 15-year cycles.”

Oof. McIlroy, 23, has won three of the last four tournaments (including a major) and is the PGA Tour’s FedExCup standings leader. “It’s got to be the hair,” Woods cracked.

Perhaps. We’ll see tomorrow, when McIlroy and Woods are paired for the fifth time this year in the first round at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club.

“No one is the size of [Baltimore Ravens linebacker] Ray Lewis who is going to hit me coming over the middle, so this is a different kind of sport,” Woods said Wednesday (via ASAP.com). “We go out there and play our own game and see where it falls at the end of the day.”

Woods, 36, jokingly called McIlroy “The Intimidator” on Wednesday morning.

“It's not like you go over the middle and some guy is 255 pounds and going to take your block off. This is about executing and going about your own business and see where it ends up at the end of the day. It's just the nature of our sport, which is different than some sports. ... Here, no one is affecting any shots.”

Woods has won three times this year and is ranked second in the world, but he hasn’t won a major since 2008. In addition to last month’s PGA Championship, McIlroy won the 2011 U.S. Open.

“How can I intimidate Tiger Woods?” McIlroy said. “I mean, the guy's got 70-whatever [74] PGA Tour wins, 14 majors. He's been the biggest thing ever in our sport. I mean, 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 he [Norman] got that from, but it's not true.”

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