Tiger Woods plays with Peyton Manning in Memorial pro-am

Stan Badz/PGA TOUR

Tiger Woods plays with Peyton Manning in Memorial pro-am

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods plays with Peyton Manning in Memorial pro-am

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DUBLIN, Ohio – With Tiger Woods standing just a few feet away and a large gallery looking on, Peyton Manning completed his round Wednesday at Muirfield Village on a perfect note – he canned an 18-footer for birdie on the 18th hole.

“That’s all that matters,” Manning joked after the two finished the pro-am ahead of Thursday’s start of the 44th Memorial Tournament.

For the second consecutive year, Manning and Woods were grouped in the pro-am at Muirfield Village. The two have played a lot of golf together, including in pro-ams in 2005 at Bay Hill ahead of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and in 2009 at the Quail Hollow Championship. And the winner of 15 majors and the quarterback of two Super Bowl victories don’t play a quiet round.

“He just gave me crap the entire time,” Woods said. “Which is par for the course. It’s what we do. We give each other a pretty good needle.”

They dish out compliments, as well.

“Look, to go behind the ropes and to play with this guy on this course and see Jack Nicklaus at the turn, anybody that loves golf, it’s a real thrill,” Manning said. “I’ve played a lot of golf with Tiger all the way through the years. It doesn’t really amaze me much anymore. I’ve seen so many incredible things that you kind of come to expect it. When he makes a par it’s kind of like you’re surprised.

“He drives it great. And he gave me a great read on 18.”

“It was a great putt,” Woods said.

The birdie putt wasn’t the only impressive thing Woods saw of Manning.

“He’s gotten so much better,” Woods said. “When we first played he was just kind of starting out in the game. But now that he’s retired he can play a lot more golf.  That’s been pretty cool for me to be able to play with him throughout the years. To know what he’s gone through and see him get ready for the season and what he’s been able to accomplish after all those surgeries, to walk around greatness like this, it’s always fun.”

Manning returned in kind when asked to compare his return from neck surgery to what Woods’ return from fusion surgery and three other back procedures.

“I don’t think that anybody can speak to it from a physical standpoint, injury-wise. Only you know what it feels like,” Manning said. “But I know how hard he worked. I know how he had to stop playing for a while because I had to stop throwing at one point because I didn’t like seeing the way I was throwing. So you kind of stop and sort of restart and that’s what he did.

“I think the most impressive thing is how he’s been able to adjust and be adaptive to playing in a new physical state. And that’s what I did. To use a baseball analogy; I couldn’t throw the 100-mile an hour fastball anymore, but you can still work the outside edges of the plate and you can still strike a guy out that way. And he struck a lot of guys out down there at Augusta a few weeks ago and came home with the win. That to me is the most impressive thing, how adaptive he’s been.

“As a golf fan, like everybody, I liked watching that Sunday. It’s great having him out here watching him play again.”

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