That sound you heard Tuesday morning was a collective sigh of relief from PGA Tour officials and those planning on attending the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits golf course in Kohler, Wisconsin.
After all, world No. 1 Rory McIlroy is back to defend his crown at the year’s final major following a lengthy injury absence, per SportsCenter. McIlroy will be joined by the dominant Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson and a number of other marquee golfers who have their eyes on the Wanamaker Trophy.
The tournament starts Thursday, and here is a look at the schedule, broadcast information and marquee first-round tee times. PGA.com has the full list of tee times for the first two rounds, and the tournament will also be streamed at PGA.com and on the PGA Championship LIVE app.
|PGA Championship Viewing Guide|
|Thursday, Aug. 13||2 p.m. - 8 p.m.||TNT|
|Friday, Aug. 14||2 p.m. to 8 p.m.||TNT|
|Saturday, Aug. 15||11 a.m. to 8 p.m.||TNT (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and CBS (2 p.m. to 8 p.m.)|
|Sunday, Aug. 16||11 a.m. to 8 p.m.||TNT (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and CBS (2 p.m. to 8 p.m.)|
|2015 PGA Championship Marquee Thursday Tee Times|
|Tee Time (Local C.T.)||Golfer||Golfer||Golfer|
|7:45 a.m.||Bubba Watson||Jim Furyk||Paul Casey|
|8:05 a.m.||Rickie Fowler||Jason Day||Dustin Johnson|
|8:15 a.m.||Tiger Woods||Martin Kaymer||Keegan Bradley|
|1:10 p.m.||Brooks Koepka||Adam Scott||Henrik Stenson|
|1:20 p.m.||Jordan Spieth||Rory McIlroy||Zach Johnson|
|1:30 p.m.||Jason Dufner||Phil Mickelson||Padraig Harrington|
Early Groupings to Watch
Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Zach Johnson
It’s almost like those in charge of creating the early groupings paired the two golfers chasing the No. 1 mantle together to generate interest in the first couple of rounds.
There is not a more intriguing threesome at the PGA Championship than the one that includes Spieth, McIlroy and Zach Johnson. Spieth (U.S. Open and Masters) and Johnson (The Open Championship) won the first three majors of the year, while McIlroy is the defending PGA Championship winner and will generate buzz as he attempts to return from his ankle injury.
McIlroy will have to shake off the rust from the opening hole or risk watching his playing partner Spieth open up an insurmountable lead.
After all, the insanely talented Spieth is attempting to become the third player in history to win three majors in a year (Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods are the others). Justin Ray of the Golf Channel put the former Texas Longhorn’s success at such a young age into perspective:
Spieth has defined the 2015 PGA season with two major victories and a near miss in the third. He can lay claim to the No. 1 spot in the rankings with triumph in Wisconsin and is as safe of a bet as there is in the field.
However, ESPN Stats & Info noted that McIlroy typically gets the better of Spieth when they play together, and Ray noted that nobody has been better than the Northern Ireland native in recent PGA Championships:
McIlroy did all of that while healthy, though, and must battle a hilly Whistling Straits course throughout the tournament this year with a healing ankle.
He also hasn’t played since the U.S. Open in June, but Alec Brzezinski of Sporting News doesn’t believe the rust will be a problem: “McIlroy has won two of the last three PGA Championships, though he was in better health in those efforts. His ankle may still be a bit balky, but it shouldn't take him very long to scrape off the rust.”
It feels almost disrespectful to ignore Johnson in this equation, considering he won The Open Championship and outlasted Spieth in the process. Still, fans have been clamoring for a showdown between the red-hot Spieth and the No. 1 McIlroy throughout the season, and this is the last chance we potentially get to see that on a major stage.
It is certainly intriguing that they will be together in the initial stages, but the real show will come if they are paired atop the leaderboard Sunday.
Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler
If Spieth and McIlroy represent major dominance, the threesome of Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler represents heartbreak.
T.J. Auclair of PGA.com discussed how close they have come to reaching the sport’s mountaintop in recent events:
There have been no three players in the last few years to come closer to winning a major, without winning a major, than these guys. Since 2010—23 majors played, total—these three players have combined for 23 top-10 finishes. Fowler has the least number of top 10s among the three in that span with six. Impressive stuff.
Fowler won the Players Championship and Day finished in the top 10 at The Open Championship and the U.S. Open, so their presence alone makes this an intriguing group. Still, fans are likely even more interested in Johnson, and whether he can avoid even more disappointment at the end of another major.
It was right here in Whistling Straits in the 2010 PGA Championship that he grounded his club in a bunker that he thought was a patch of dirt because there were spectators around. He accepted a two-shot penalty and did not get the opportunity to join Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer in a playoff largely because of it.
This year, his three-putt to miss out on a playoff at the U.S. Open was painful to watch, and he squandered his two-round lead at the British Open in the following major.
Hall of Famer Nick Faldo discussed Johnson’s mindset heading into the PGA Championship, per Teddy Greenstein of the Los Angeles Times: “The golf course demands really high second shots, so you figure he has to be one of the contenders [this week]. But mentally, I don't know. We'll see how much scar tissue he has from the U.S. Open and the [British] Open.”
While only Johnson knows exactly what will run through his head on the course, he and his playing partner Day should contend based on their driving ability alone.
Johnson is No. 1 and Day is No. 3 on tour this year in average driving distance, per PGATour.com. They will each face shorter approach shots on the hilly and challenging course than their opponents, which should bode well for impressive scores in the early going.
That should put them in position to contend during the weekend. That’s all you can ask for in the first two rounds of a major.