Greg Norman had offered that sentiment as McIlroy, the world No1, and Woods, the No2, prepared for their latest outing together at East Lake this week, for the culmination of the FedEx Cup. When the Australian's thoughts were put to McIlroy on the eve of the tournament, which begins on Thursday, he gave a sharp, smiling rebuke.
"He [Tiger] has got a new nickname for me actually. He calls me 'the Intimidator'," McIlroy joked. "No. How can I intimidate Tiger Woods? I mean, the guy has got 74 PGA Tour wins and 14 majors. He's been the biggest thing ever in our sport. How could some little 23-year-old from Northern Ireland come up and intimidate him? It's just impossible. I don't know where he got that from, but it's not true."
When asked if he had been intimidated by Woods earlier in his career, McIlroy said: "No, I don't think intimidated is the right word. More just in awe of what he has done, of his accomplishments, his achievements. But never intimidated."
Woods, who is known to have a frosty relationship with Norman in any case, was unwilling to be quite as open on the subject. "It's got to be the hair" was all Woods would offer on the concept of McIlroy getting inside his mind.
More generally, the 36-year-old disputes that golfers can psychologically impact on their rivals. "No one the size of [the NFL player] Ray Lewis is going to hit me, so this is kind of different," Woods said. "This is a different kind of sport. We go out there and play our own game and see where it falls at the end of the day.
"It's not like you go over the middle and some guy at 255 pounds is going to take your block off. This is about execution and going about your own business. It's just the nature of our sport, which is different to some others.
"Some individual sports, such as tennis, you can actually do something physically because you are playing against somebody. Here, no one is affecting any shots."
Intrigue surrounds the blossoming relationship between McIlroy and Woods, this FedEx finale aside. The pair have grown close recently, as will be displayed over the first 36 holes in Atlanta.
"Every time that we get paired up, I'm obviously very excited about it," McIlroy said. "It's a great buzz. You'll have to ask him if he feels the same way but for me it is very exciting."
After three of the four FedEx play-off events, Woods is leading the chasing pack behind McIlroy, who is looking to continue a superb finish to the season in the final tournament by claiming the $10m (£6.2m) on offer for the play-off winner in the 30-strong field. "I really don't care," said Woods when asked to analyse the scrutiny of his increasing closeness to McIlroy.
What about whether or not McIlroy should already be regarded as golf's player of the year? "I don't know. We'll see," he continued, curtly. McIlroy, of course, is aiming to further endorse his own candidature. "It would cap off a great year," he said of FedEx success. "I had a great start to the season, wasn't so great in the middle but have finished it off really well.
"It's hard to compare this to a major championship because it is a year-long thing, about being consistent. You have to play well at the right time, as I have done in the last couple of weeks, but it would be nice to have something to recognise that you have played the best golf throughout the year."
There is the looming prospect of box- office golf at next weekend's Ryder Cup, should Woods and McIlroy be drawn as singles opponents. Woods described the idea as "fun". McIlroy added: "It's about the team, about the 12 guys as part of the European team and the USA team. It's not about one guy playing another guy.
"Of course a lot of people would like to see it. It would be very exciting to be part of, of course. But I just want to win as many points as possible for Europe and that's all I can really do. I'm not going to sit here and lie, saying I wouldn't enjoy it, because I would. But I think it's up to the captain to decide where I play. Whatever decision he makes is good with me."
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image: © Ed McDonald