Tiger trying to fend off Generation Next

While the golf world debates whether Tiger Woods will ever get back to being the dominant player he was, Rickie Fowler's the latest young gun to remind that the ultimate judge of that may well be Father Time.

Woods will be 35 this year; Fowler, who on Friday tied the 36-hole scoring record at the Memorial, is still 21.

They are of different generations, and Generation Next, with budding stars like Rory McIlroy, Ryo Ishikawa, Jason Day and Fowler coming into their own this year, has been signaling a changing of the guard.

Even Woods, sounding like an elder statesman, has noticed.

"My group of guys that I competed against, the Ernies, the Phils, the Vijays, the Gooses, we went at it for over a decade together, and so it's just a matter of these guys getting out there," he said.

"It's the same group of guys. You see they're all about the same age. It will be cool to see the next 10 years, how that all turns out.

"They're just getting started."

Fowler acknowledged that he was driven by his fellow young turks. He was especially inspired by McIlroy's runaway win last month at Quail Hollow and Ishikawa's 58 in Japan.

"I love to see guys like Rory and Ryo and the other young guys playing well. I think we can push each other to be the best that we can be," he said.

Woods, meanwhile, is having to settle for the best that he can be right now.

He began Friday seven shots off the lead, shot 69 -- his best outing since the Masters -- and yet finished the day 10 shots off Fowler's lead.

The confident young Southern Californian threw a six-under-par 66 at Muirfield Village to go with his first-round 65.

"Just being in contention the few times I have over the last eight months or so since I turned pro, this is by far the best that I've felt," said Fowler, who is remarkably calm in the spotlight.

Watching Fowler play with such youthful abandon reminds you that golf in some ways is a young man's game.

Over the years, scar tissue develops around old mental wounds, as Kenny Perry -- a two-time champion at Muirfield Village -- noted when he was asked about Fowler.

"He has no fear and the greens are perfect," Perry, who is 48, said.

"If you've got no fear and you can putt the golf ball, you're going to play well here.

"This is a young man's golf course, it really is.

"I've been out here so many times, I know where not to miss it. He doesn't know where not to miss it. He's just thinking about pins where I'm thinking I can't miss it left or right of the flag here. I end up playing a little too cautious."

While Fowler conceded he wasn't as aggressive as he was in college because the flags are put in more treacherous positions on the PGA Tour's greens, the former dirt bike racer is still hardly anyone's idea of cautious.

"I do hit a lot of drivers off the tees, and I go at a lot of pins," he said.

Woods, on the other hand, managed to hit away from a lot of pins, and not by choice.

As one wag of the press room noted, he's leading the field in fringes hit in regulation.

But these are baby steps for him.

Friday marked only his 11th competitive round of the year and he seems happy to be playing four rounds given his recent poor form.

"I hit more good shots today than I did yesterday and really putted well today," he said.

"It's a process."

After his round, Woods went to the range to work on his swing.

He set up at the far left of the range and worked alone, with only his longtime caddie Steve Williams watching.

Eventually, Steve Stricker joined Woods and they engaged in animated discussion about how to swing a club.

Earlier, Stricker said he wasn't offering Woods advice.

"He knows a ton about the game," he said, "I don't think there's a teacher out there that can possibly give the information that Tiger already has.

"He just hasn't played a lot. So that's always tough. He's working on a few things, I think, so that's always tough to do, too.

"He'll be fine."

Stricker, however, had played two rounds alongside Woods and knew all was not yet right.

"I don't think he's driving it like he would like to, but his iron play seems to be getting better," he said.

"His ability to score is still very good."

Woods fronted the media after his round -- as he has since his return at the Masters -- and largely went through the motions until he was asked about this year being the 30th anniversary of Caddyshack .

His eyes lit up at the chance to talk about his favorite movie, which he estimated he's watched "pretty close to a hundred [times] by now."

"It's the little things," he said, "That's what makes the movie so great."