The final major of the year is here, and eager fans ready to tune in from the opening tee time Thursday are going to be treated to some very tasty pairings. Some of the top stars in the game have been grouped together, so the first two days should be a lot of fun.
Below, we'll take a look at those pairings, the tee times and break down how some of the top groups might fare.
|Tee||Session||Times (ET) and Pairs|
|1||Morning||7:30 a.m.: Brian Norman, Russell Knox, Roberto Castro|
|1||Morning||7:40 a.m.: Charles Howell III, Aaron Krueger, Joost Luiten|
|1||Morning||7:50 a.m.: Billy Horschel, Jamie Broce, George Coetzee|
|1||Morning||8 a.m.: Brian Stuard, Brendon Todd, Pablo Larrazabal|
|1||Morning||8:10 a.m.: Freddie Jacobson, Nick Watney, Brendon de Jonge|
|1||Morning||8:20 a.m.: Matt Every, Ross Fisher, Kevin Chappell|
|1||Morning||8:30 a.m.: John Daly, Mark Brooks, Rich Beem|
|1||Morning||8:40 a.m.: K.J. Choi, Thongchai Jaidee, Brian Harman|
|1||Morning||8:50 a.m.: Thomas Bjorn, Kevin Stadler, Harris English|
|1||Morning||9 a.m.: Jamie Donaldson, Hyung-Sung Kim, Stewart Cink|
|1||Morning||9:10 a.m.: Stephen Gallacher, Jason Kokrak, Rafael Cabrera-Bello|
|1||Morning||9:20 a.m.: Kevin Streelman, Ryan Helminen, Edoardo Molinari|
|1||Morning||9:30 a.m.: Brendan Steele, Rob Corcoran, Pat Perez|
|10||Morning||7:35 a.m.: Robert Karlsson, Frank Esposito, Koumei Oda|
|10||Morning||7:45 a.m.: Hideki Matsuyama, Angel Cabrera, Patrick Reed|
|10||Morning||7:55 a.m.: Shaun Micheel, Colin Montgomerie, Michael Block|
|10||Morning||8:05 a.m.: Rickie Fowler, Victor Dubuisson, Ernie Els|
|10||Morning||8:15 a.m.: Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, Lee Westwood|
|10||Morning||8:25 a.m.: Jimmy Walker, Ian Poulter, Jason Day|
|10||Morning||8:35 a.m.: Padraig Harrington, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods|
|10||Morning||8:45 a.m.: Graeme McDowell, Brandt Snedeker, Brooks Koepka|
|10||Morning||8:55 a.m.: Miguel Angel Jimenez, Charl Schwartzel, Jim Furyk|
|10||Morning||9:05 a.m.: Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen, Justin Rose|
|10||Morning||9:15 a.m.: Marc Leishman, Boo Weekley, Bernd Wiesberger|
|10||Morning||9:25 a.m.: Russell Henley, David McNabb, Marc Warren|
|10||Morning||9:35 a.m.: Mikko Ilonen, Jerry Smith, George McNeill|
|1||Afternoon||12:45 p.m.: Ryo Ishikawa, Matt Pesta, Rory Sabbatini|
|1||Afternoon||12:55 p.m.: Scott Stallings, Eric Williamson, Matteo Manassero|
|1||Afternoon||1:05 p.m.: Jonas Blixt, Webb Simpson, Erik Compton|
|1||Afternoon||1:15 p.m.: Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Graham DeLaet, Gary Woodland|
|1||Afternoon||1:25 p.m.: Sergio Garcia, Steve Stricker, Tom Watson|
|1||Afternoon||1:35 p.m.: Kenny Perry, Ryan Moore, Henrik Stenson|
|1||Afternoon||1:45 p.m.: Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy|
|1||Afternoon||1:55 p.m.: Jason Dufner, Y.E. Yang, Keegan Bradley|
|1||Afternoon||2:05 p.m.: Luke Donald, J.B. Holmes, Francesco Molinari|
|1||Afternoon||2:15 p.m.: Zach Johnson, Darren Clarke, Richard Sterne|
|1||Afternoon||2:25 p.m.: Tim Clark, Paul Casey, Kevin Na|
|1||Afternoon||2:35 p.m.: Steven Bowditch, Rod Perry, Ben Crane|
|1||Afternoon||2:45 p.m.: David Hronek, Chris Stroud, Jason Bohn|
|10||Afternoon||12:40 p.m.: Shane Lowry, Bob Sowards, Ryan Palmer|
|10||Afternoon||12:50 p.m.: Charley Hoffman, Dustin Volk, Scott Brown|
|10||Afternoon||1 p.m.: Alexander Levy, Stuart Deane, David Hearn|
|10||Afternoon||1:10 p.m.: Davis Tentis, Fabrizio Zanotti, Danny Willett|
|10||Afternoon||1:20 p.m.: Anirban Lahiri, Bill Haas, John Senden|
|10||Afternoon||1:30 p.m.: Vijay Singh, Davis Love III, David Toms|
|10||Afternoon||1:40 p.m.: Cameron Tringale, Scott Piercy, Kiradech Aphibarnrat|
|10||Afternoon||1:50 p.m.: Branden Grace, Hunter Mahan, Thorbjorn Olesen|
|10||Afternoon||2 p.m.: Chris Kirk, Matt Jones, Seung-Yul Noh|
|10||Afternoon||2:10 p.m.: Jerry Kelly, Tommy Fleetwood, Hideto Tanihara|
|10||Afternoon||2:20 p.m.: Will MacKenzie, Steve Schneiter, Chesson Hadley|
|10||Afternoon||2:30 p.m.: Johan Kok, Ben Martin, Chris Wood|
|10||Afternoon||2:40 p.m.: Daniel Summerhays, Jim McGovern, Geoff Ogilvy|
The first trio worth really scrutinizing Thursday is Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott and Lee Westwood. Scott comes into the PGA Championship on fire, having finished in the top 10 in his past five tournaments and eight times overall this year.
Spieth, meanwhile, had a rough July. After finishing seventh at the John Deere Classic, he managed only a 36th- and 49th-place finish at his next two tournaments. He remains one of the most potential-laden golfers in the game today, but it's hard to see him cracking the top 10 in this tournament, unlike Scott.
About 20 minutes later, Padraig Harrington, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods will tee off. Well, maybe Woods will tee off—that remains up in the air. He did show up to take a practice round Wednesday, per SportsCenter on Twitter:
DEVELOPING: Tiger Woods arrives at Valhalla for PGA Championship. His status still uncertain if he'll play tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/1lebTFGzLv— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 6, 2014
"Tiger Watch" is underway. It's hard to imagine what Woods can get out of playing with a faulty back, but it appears he's going to at least take every opportunity to see if he can fight through the injury he suffered at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Mickelson, meanwhile, is trying to fight through what most kindly could be described as a disappointing season. Mickelson doesn't so much as have a top-10 finish yet this year. It's hard to see him ending that trend at Valhalla.
Another group to keep an eye on is that of Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen and Justin Rose. Rose in particular is a real threat to win this tournament, with his seven top-10 finishes this season and win at the Quicken Loans National. Matt Kuchar is a threat to finish in the top 10 as well, something he's done an impressive 10 times this year.
The group of Sergio Garcia, Steve Stricker and Tom Watson should be a fun watch, even if Garcia has a habit of tantalizing for a few rounds before dropping off. Still, who would be against him breaking through at Valhalla?
And Watson, well, he's a legend.
Twenty minutes later, one of the premier groups of the tournament will get underway, as Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy tee off. No, this course doesn't seem to suit Watson, so a top-10 finish seems unlikely, but he's always an entertaining watch.
Kaymer has two wins, including the U.S. Open, so he's certainly a threat, but all eyes will really be on Rory McIlroy, who has won two tournaments in a row, including the Open Championship. So good is McIlroy that golf legend Jack Nicklaus openly praised him to Bob Harig of ESPN:
I think Rory is an unbelievable talent. I love his swing, I love his rhythm, I love his moxie. He's got a little swagger there, it's a little bit cocky but not offensive. I like that. I like the self-confidence in a young man. He's got an unbelievable amount of speed in his golf swing, he obviously hits the ball a heck of a long way. And he hits in there consistently and how he controls it.
It depends on what he feels his priorities are, and that's his call. I think Rory has an opportunity to win 15 or 20 majors or whatever he wants to do if he wants to keep playing. But you just don't know what the guy's priorities are going to be in life 10 years from now.
If you needed any indication as to why McIlroy should be the favorite in this tournament, you just got it. When a golfing icon like Nicklaus heaps such high praise on a player, you listen and take notes. The McIlroy Era appears to have indeed begun.
Of course, not everyone agrees McIlroy will win this tournament. Matt Willis of ESPN, for example, studied trends and statistics of past winners to determine the most likely winner this year. His conclusion: Patrick Reed will reign supreme.
That would almost assuredly get him on the Ryder Cup team, but it's hard to see anybody beating McIlroy right now, with the most likely contenders to do so being Scott and Rose.
Still, at the majors, you just never know. A mysterious contender could emerge from the shadows. Woods could be trolling us all with his back issues. Lefty could rediscover his mojo.
It's all up in the air. And it's all terribly exciting.