The former world number one paid tribute to the Northern Irishman and admitted that he enjoys playing against him.
"It's going to be fun for both of us," Woods said. "I enjoy playing with Rory, and I hope he feels the same way.
"I got a chance this year to play with him at Abu Dhabi in a practice round, and we really hit it off. He's a great kid.
"I just hope that everyone just lets him grow and develop as a player because it's going to be fun to see over the next 20 years how this kid's career is going to pan out."
Woods and McIlroy have been grouped together for the opening two rounds on the Bethpage Black course at Bethpage State Park.