PGA Championship 2014: Who to watch Thursday

It's the final major tournament on this year's pro golf tour. The PGA Championship in Louisville could also help some golfers reach the FedEx Playoffs and potentially a spot in the Ryder Cup.

John Sommers II/REUTERS
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland signs autographs for fans after his third day of practice for the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, August 6, 2014.

Almost all of the top 100 ranked pro golfers are in Louisville, Kentucky this week for the 96th annual PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club. This is the third time the season's final major will be contested at the Jack Nicklaus-designed course.

Because of the size of the field, golfers will use both the first and tenth tees to start on both Thursday and Friday.

New world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, coming off an impressive two-week stretch where he captured the British Open and came from behind to win the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, will start from the first tee at 1:45 p.m. Eastern time.

McIlroy's paired with 2014's other major championship winners - Masters winner Bubba Watson and US Open champ Martin Kaymer, who's been dealing with a shoulder injury.

Defending champion Jason Dufner is planning to play, despite a neck injury that occurred earlier this year and continues to hamper his game. He will be paired with two other former PGA champs - Keegan Bradley, who won this event three years ago in Atlanta, and Y.E. Yang, who battled Tiger Woods to win the 2009 PGA Championship. This threesome will go off the first tee at 1:55 p.m. Eastern time Thursday.

Speaking of the four-time PGA champion, Woods is apparently going to play in the PGA Championship this weekend. He was forced to withdraw from the Bridgestone Invitational during Sunday's final round with back spasms. Tiger was given permission to make a decision to play this week right up to his 8:35 a.m. Eastern Thursday tee time.

However, Woods arrived at Valhalla Wednesday and played a nine-hole practice round. Afterwards, he said Sunday's back issue was not related to the surgery he had this past March and once the problem was identified, his trainer was able to fix it. He is scheduled to tee off from the tenth hole Thursday alongside 2005 PGA champion Phil Mickelson and 2008 PGA champ Padraig Harrington.

Other groups of interest include the threesome of US and British Open runner-up Rickie Fowler, Victor Dubuisson of France, and former US and British Open champion Ernie Els of South Africa. This trio will go off from the tenth tee at 8:05 a.m. Eastern Thursday.

Australia's Adam Scott and Lee Westwood of England are paired with rising star Jordan Spieth of the US. They will also tee off on the tenth hole at 8:15 a.m. Eastern time Thursday.

Another group of former PGA champions - John Daly in 1991, Mark Brooks in 1996, and Rich Beem in 2002 - will hit the course at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Thursday from the first hole.

How players finish this weekend will help solidify the field of 125 golfers for the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs, which start August 21. Also, the final rosters for the Ryder Cup teams will be set after the PGA Championship. The Ryder Cup matches between the US and Europe, to be played in Scotland, will start Sept. 25.

Thursday's first round of the 2014 PGA Championship will be televised on TNT, beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern. Live streaming will be available at

Material from The Associated Press was used in this article.

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