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The PGA Championship gets underway in Tulsa today, and there should be plenty to keep viewers interested. Here, Express Sport takes a look at what spectators should be keeping an eye out for on day one.
Tiger remains the man
Tiger Woods will show he is still golf’s pied piper today when he tees it up at the venue where he won the last of his four US PGA Championships 15 years ago.
Huge crowds are expected to follow his first round progress at Southern Hills when he tees it up at 2.11pm UK time – with a fan club which includes both players in his group.
Rory McIlroy had posters of Woods on the walls of his bedroom growing up in Northern Ireland while Jordan Spieth was just as captivated by him – and remains so after his storybook comeback from a career-threatening car crash last year.
“I’ll get to tell my kid about some day, I got to play with Tiger in a Major. Last year, you weren’t sure if that was ever going to happen again,” said Spieth.
“I know it’s obviously great for golf, but selfishly it’s pretty exciting to be able to play these events growing up with the guy that you idolised.”
The challenge of Southern Hills’s 7,500-yard hilly walk will be substantial for Woods as he continues his progress from the serious injuries he sustained to his right leg last February but McIlroy is expecting a strong showing from the 15-times Major winner.
“He’s stubborn, he’s determined. This is what he lives for,” said McIlroy. “He lives for these Major Championships and if he believes he can get around 18 holes, he believes he can win.”
Bryson DeChambeau will miss the US PGA Championship after a last-minute withdrawal.
The World No 22 has failed to recover in time from a hand operation he underwent five weeks ago and handed over his place to first reserve Denny McCarthy.
“I feel like I could run a marathon but my hand isn’t ready yet,” said DeChambeau.
“I’ve got to give it more time. I’ve got to come back 100 per cent, not 70 per cent. It was a big ask of myself. I gave it my best and it’s unfortunate but I want somebody else to have a chance to win this championship.
“I’m very disappointed. The frustration is definitely there. I hate being at home doing nothing.’
DeChambeau originally sustained the injury in a freak ping pong injury at the Saudi Invitational in February.
“Playing ping poing and falling on it – being dumb is what it was,” said DeChambeau, who is now targeting the Memorial tournament at the end of the month for his comeback.
Southern Hills go slow warning
Tyrrell Hatton has warned that Southern Hills could be “stupidly slow” with its strange layout.
The course for the USPGA Championship features holes where players will have to drive across if the longest tee boxes are used and the Englishman wants the PGA of America’s Chief Championships Officer Kerry Haigh to use common sense with the first round set-up.
“They’re going to have to be fairly careful with how they set the golf course up because of where some of the tee boxes are,” said Hatton.
“The rounds could be just stupidly slow, which at the end of the day no one wants. You want to get around in a reasonable time. Hopefully they’re fairly smart with how they do that.”
However Hatton, who tees it up at 1.49pm UK time in the same group as Max Homa and Bryson DeChambeau’s replacement Denny McCarty, is resigned to some delays.
“You chat with your caddie, maybe have a chat with your playing partners – there’s really not much else you can do,” he said.
“It’s not like we’re allowed to go on our phone and scroll through Twitter and Instagram like you can do if you’re just playing with your friends and it’s pretty slow.”
Mickelson missed? Not really
Phil Mickelson’s absence today as defending champion will be felt but American golf’s persona non-grata was not missed at the event’s champions dinner.
Dave Stockton, the 1970 champion when the USPGA was staged at Southern Hills, was pleased Mickelson stayed away after the controversy he stirred over the Saudi-back rebel tour.
“It was a fun evening. Phil was not missed. I think Phil would have been a big distraction. The story this week is the PGA,” said Stockton.
There were several other notable no-shows at the dinner including Tiger Woods. Those that did attend included Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa, Jason Dufner, Martin Kaymer, Padraig Harrington, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Rich Beem, Mark Brooks, Jeff Sluman and Stockton.