The year's final major is upon us, and the professionals are teeing off in waves Thursday from Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, for the 2014 PGA Championship.
Those who are hungry to make 2014 their breakout season and the already decorated stars who hope to add to their career accomplishments will put their best foot forward in the Bluegrass State.
The tournament will use split tees to accommodate the large field. The pairings and tee times have been announced for the first round, per Golfweek.
Morning wave off the No. 1 tee (all times ET):
|7:30 a.m||Roberto Castro||Russell Knox||Brian Norman|
|7:40 a.m||Charles Howell III||Aaron Krueger||Joost Luiten|
|7:50 a.m||Jamie Broce||George Coetzee||Billy Horschel|
|8 a.m||Pablo Larrazabal||Brian Stuard||Brendon Todd|
|8:10 a.m||Fredrik Jacobson||Nick Watney||Brendon de Jonge|
|8:20 a.m||Kevin Chappell||Matt Every||Ross Fisher|
|8:30 a.m||Rich Beem||Mark Brooks||John Daly|
|8:40 a.m||K.J. Choi||Brian Harman||Thongchai Jaidee|
|8:50 a.m||Thomas Bjorn||Harris English||Kevin Stadler|
|9 a.m||Stewart Cink||Jamie Donaldson||Hyung-Sung Kim|
|9:10 a.m||Rafael Cabrera-Bello||Stephen Gallacher||Jason Kokrak|
|9:20 a.m||Ryan Helminen||Edoardo Molinari||Kevin Streelman|
|9:30 a.m||Rob Corcoran||Pat Perez||Brendan Steele|
Morning wave off the No. 10:
|7:35 a.m||Frank Esposito||Robert Karlsson||Koumei Oda|
|7:45 a.m||Angel Cabrera||Hideki Matsuyama||Patrick Reed|
|7:55 a.m||Michael Block||Shaun Micheel||Colin Montgomerie|
|8:05 a.m||Victor Dubuisson||Ernie Els||Rickie Fowler|
|8:15 a.m||Adam Scott||Jordan Spieth||Lee Westwood|
|8:25 a.m||Jason Day||Ian Poulter||Jimmy Walker|
|8:35 a.m||Padraig Harrington||Phil Mickelson||Tiger Woods|
|8:45 a.m||Brooks Koepka||Graeme McDowell||Brandt Snedeker|
|8:55 a.m||Jim Furyk||Miguel Angel Jimenez||Charl Schwartzel|
|9:05 a.m||Matt Kuchar||Louis Oosthuizen||Justin Rose|
|9:15 a.m||Marc Leishman||Boo Weekley||Bernd Wiesberger|
|9:25 a.m||Russell Henley||David McNabb||Marc Warren|
|9:35 a.m||Mikko Ilonen||George McNeill||Jerry Smith|
Afternoon wave off the No. 1:
|12:45 a.m||Ryo Ishikawa||Matt Pesta||Rory Sabbatini|
|12:55 a.m||Matteo Manassero||Scott Stallings||Eric Williamson|
|1:05 a.m||Jonas Blixt||Erik Compton||Webb Simpson|
|1:15 a.m||Graham DeLaet||Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano||Gary Woodland|
|1:25 a.m||Sergio Garcia||Steve Stricker||Tom Watson|
|1:35 a.m||Ryan Moore||Kenny Perry||Henrik Stenson|
|1:45 a.m||Martin Kaymer||Rory McIlroy||Bubba Watson|
|1:55 a.m||Keegan Bradley||Jason Dufner||Y.E. Yang|
|2:05 a.m||Luke Donald||J.B. Holmes||Francesco Molinari|
|2:15 a.m||Darren Clarke||Zach Johnson||Richard Sterne|
|2:25 a.m||Paul Casey||Tim Clark||Kevin Na|
|2:35 a.m||Steven Bowditch||Ben Crane||Rod Perry|
|2:45 a.m||Jason Bohn||David Hronek||Chris Stroud|
Afternoon wave off the No. 10:
|12:40 p.m||Shane Lowry||Ryan Palmer||Bob Sowards|
|12:50 p.m||Scott Brown||Charley Hoffman||Dustin Volk|
|1 p.m||Stuart Deane||David Hearn||Alexander Levy|
|1:10 p.m||Dave Tentis||Danny Willett||Fabrizio Zanotti|
|1:20 p.m||Bill Haas||Anirban Lahiri||John Senden|
|1:30 p.m||Davis Love III||Vijay Singh||David Toms|
|1:40 p.m||Kiradech Aphibarnrat||Scott Piercy||Cameron Tringale|
|1:50 p.m||Branden Grace||Hunter Mahan||Thorbjorn Olesen|
|2 p.m||Matt Jones||Chris Kirk||Seung-yul Noh|
|2:10 p.m||Tommy Fleetwood||Jerry Kelly||Hideto Tanihara|
|2:20 p.m||Chesson Hadley||Will MacKenzie||Steve Schneiter|
|2:30 p.m||Johan Kok||Ben Martin||Chris Wood|
|2:40 p.m||Jim McGovern||Geoff Ogilvy||Daniel Summerhays|
First-Round Predictions for Most Compelling Pairings
Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, Lee Westwood
This group is highlighted by Scott, the 34-year-old Australian who just surrendered the world No. 1 ranking to Rory McIlroy last week.
Despite the partial demotion in the rankings, 2014 has been a good year for Scott. He has two wins and six top-five finishes. He hasn't captured a major this year after winning the Masters in 2013, but his consistency has solidified him as one of the truly elite players in the world.
Scott has had some nice showings in previous PGA Championships, including the 2006 tournament, which is the last time it was played at Valhalla.
Scott finished tied for third place that year. If he can win this year, he could regain the No. 1 spot in the world and have back-to-back years with a major championship.
On Thursdays at majors this year, Scott has been a mixed bag. He's had some good beginnings, like the four-under-par 68 he shot at The Open Championship, and some not-so-great starts, like the three-over-par 73 he produced at the U.S. Open.
Scott sounds confident heading into the tournament despite the recent inconsistencies. Per Jennie Rees of The Courier-Journal, Scott said, "I've been playing my best golf, generally, the last couple of months. If I can fall into rhythm this week, I'm really looking forward to it."
Because of the familiarity with the course, and because he played well last week at the Bridgestone Invitational, Scott is on pace to compete on Thursday.
Thursday Prediction: two-under
Jordan Spieth is looking to round out his second year on the PGA Tour in style. The attention being given to the 21-year-old Texan has waned a bit, but that could create the perfect scenario for Spieth to be a factor in Kentucky.
He hasn't looked strong recently, having finished no higher than 36th in each of his last two tournaments. Spieth is mentally tough, though, and not likely to get too down on himself.
He'll do well on Thursday but may not find himself among the early leaders.
Thursday Prediction: even
Lee Westwood is a big name, but he has never produced a win at a major. He's a long shot to break through at 41 years old.
His performance on Thursday will expose him as a non-factor in the tournament.
Thursday's Prediction: three-over
Padraig Harrington, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods
This group is all about Tiger Woods as usual. The golf world is still waiting to hear if Woods will indeed play in the tournament after injuring himself and withdrawing from the Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday.
Woods has asked for and been granted an extension to register while he readies himself for a run at his 15th major championship, per Nick Masuda of Golfweek, via Fox Sports.
Woods has battled injuries all year and struggled to regain his elite form.
Still, when his name appears in pairings, he becomes the focus of the entire tournament. If Woods does play and wins at Valhalla—as he did in 2006—it would be one of the best victories of his career considering the circumstances.
Heading toward his 39th birthday in December, Woods' quest to equal Jack Nicklaus' record for most major championships is becoming tougher to see as a realistic goal. A victory in Kentucky would surely help his cause.
As much as one might want to root for Woods to shine, given his current physical state, it's difficult to see him playing too well on Thursday.
Thursday's Prediction: one-over
Tiger's most consistent rival, Phil Mickelson, hasn't had the best season himself. Not only has Mickelson not managed to win a tournament this year, he hasn't even had a top-10 finish.
That's noteworthy for the 44-year-old Hall of Famer. Fortunately for Mickelson, he does have some momentum coming into the tournament.
A final-round 62 at the Bridgestone Invitational ended what was otherwise a bad performance on a positive note. Gary D'Amato of the Journal Sentinel asks, "Is it possible for a golfer to turn around a mediocre season with one good round?"
Mickelson and his fans sure hope so.
Don't expect Lefty to come out the gates playing the way he played on Sunday in Akron. As great as Mickelson can and has been in his career, inconsistency has been his Achilles' heel all year.
He'll play well, but he won't run away from the field.
Thursday's Prediction: one-under
At this point, Padraig Harrington is just a recognizable name who doesn't have a realistic shot at beating any of the world's best golfers.
His heyday was in 2007 and 2008. In the latter year, he won both the British Open and the PGA Championship, but he won't be a factor this time around. He's missed almost as many cuts as he's made this year. There's no reason to believe he'll be strong on Thursday.
Thursday's Prediction: four-over
Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy
It's Rory McIlroy's world right now. The rest of the players are just living in it. Having recently claimed the No. 1 spot in the world rankings with two straight wins, including a dominant triumph at The Open Championship, McIlroy is unquestionably the best player in the world right now.
The 25-year-old is the odds-on favorite to win, per Vegas Insider, which lists him as an 11-2 favorite. Perhaps the most impressive thing about McIlroy's recent play is that he has stared down the types of pressure situations that had caused him to crumble in the past.
At the Bridgestone Invitational, he turned back a determined Sergio Garcia in the tournament's final round. The old Rory might have gone into a shell and imploded.
McIlroy now has the swagger and confidence that Woods used to carry. He is on one of those runs that should carry over for the next few tournaments he plays.
Thursday's Prediction: four-under
For whatever reason, Bubba Watson brings his best to the Masters, and he looks more ordinary in the other majors. He did finish second at the PGA Championship in 2010, but most of his other performances in majors outside of Augusta, Georgia, have been lackluster.
For that reason, don't expect Watson to come out firing on all cylinders in Kentucky on Thursday.
Thursday's Prediction: three-over
Kaymer is the least popular of this threesome, but don't take him lightly. He's already won the Players Championship and the U.S. Open this year.
When he's on his game, Kaymer can compete with anyone on the tour. He hasn't played well since his win at Pinehurst, but that doesn't mean he won't get off to a strong start in Kentucky.
Expect him to rise to the occasion and be in the hunt after the first round.
Thursday's Prediction: three-under
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