Unlike The Open Championship, American golf fans won't have to set alarms ridiculously early to see the greatest golfers in the world play for a major title.
With the 2014 PGA Championship getting underway on Thursday, the first tee time is set for 7:30 a.m. and coverage begins at a cool 1 p.m. ET on TNT from Valhalla Golf Club. Those are much more friendly times for golf lovers.
Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson are already confirmed for the event, but one notable player had still yet to decide whether or not he'd play until Wednesday.
Tiger Woods dropped out of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday, but he is ready to go in Valhalla. Less than 24 hours before the PGA Championship, Woods announced he would play, per Steve DiMeglio of USA Today.
The "Will he or won't he?" game appears to finally be over with Woods. Now the focus will be on putting together a much better showing than he did at the British Open in order to clinch his 15th major.
Before the opening round gets underway, here's a look at the updated odds, predictions and storylines for Thursday in Valhalla.
2014 PGA Championship Information
When: Thursday, August 7, through Sunday, August 10
Where: Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky
Tee Times: For a complete list of tee times for the first two rounds, visit PGATour.com.
Winner's Share: $1,800,000
FedEx Cup Points: 600
Day 1 Storylines/Predictions
Will McIlroy Remain Dominant at PGA Championship?
After months of inconsistent play and questions about his competitiveness on the major stage, McIlroy has returned to form in his last two tournaments.
Along with that form, he's also taken over the No. 1 spot again in the rankings. Following the Bridgestone Invitational victory, SportsCenter pointed out what the last two events have meant for McIlroy:
Rory McIlroy becomes No. 1 in World Golf Ranking with his 2nd straight win. In last 2 tournaments, he's won $3,195,788.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 3, 2014
The over $3 million in prize money certainly helps, but McIlroy had one goal coming into the season—to win two majors. Heading into the final major of the year, that target is still attainable.
Leading the charge in the last few weeks, McIlroy has once again become the center of the golf world apart from Woods' health questions. In fact, Jack Nicklaus has even moved on from talking about Woods to address the future of McIlroy, per 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 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.
Will McIlroy win a second straight major?
McIlroy is slowly becoming the new face of golf and will prove himself yet again at Valhalla. Now a three-time major winner, McIlroy is at the top of his game and is the favorite to rout the field and earn his fourth.
Thursdays have also been a strong point for McIlroy, but he'll have to hold it together again on Friday. A strong start could put him in contention with a minimum of a top-10 finish at the PGA Championship.
How Will Woods Perform Once He Returns to the Course?
Just days before the final major of the season, Woods appeared to have no chance of competing at Valhalla.
Now not only is Woods planning on returning in the PGA Championship, but he believes he can win the tournament. The 38-year-old spoke about his expectations starting on Thursday, per DiMeglio:
As you saw out there, I got my speed, my power.
… That's the only thing I can control. Try to go out there and win this event. That's all I'm focused on. … I played all right. Nothing great. It's only Wednesday – I want my good stuff to start tomorrow. I felt pretty good about how I played and the shots I hit.
Seeing might truly be believing with Woods this weekend, though. His expectations might be high, but doubt has already crept into the minds of golf fans that they will ever see another major from Woods.
While he is just days removed from another back injury, his play in the practice round showed he might truly be healthy. Bob Harig of ESPN provides analysis from Woods' practice on Wednesday:
If Tiger is worried about taking it easy... doesn't appear to be the case so far. This warm-up session is like full-out practice.— Bob Harig (@BobHarig) August 6, 2014
Thursday will be a huge one for Woods as he sets his sight on the elusive 15th major title. If he can get off to a strong start, that goal of winning the PGA Championship might actually be within reach.
Unfortunately, Woods will be erratic yet again on Day 1 in Valhalla and watch younger players like McIlroy and Rickie Fowler pass him by again. Woods will likely have his fair share of birdies, but pairing those with bogeys will cause him to finish over par in the opening round.
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