Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth make up dream trio for first two rounds at the US PGA Championship amid the fallout from Saudi-backed breakaway golf league
- Tiger Woods took a swipe at old rival Phil Mickelson for not defending his title
- Rory McIlroy relishing ‘wonderful test’ at scene of his last major victory in 2014
- Super group adds pressure on Jordan Spieth as he seeks career Grand Slam
Now there is a three-ball the Saudis will never be able to buy. The 104th US PGA Championship begins on Thursday morning with Tiger Woods joined on the tee by Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.
The man who has done it all alongside the two players under 40 who are one missing piece away from a career Grand Slam and joining him in the sport’s most exclusive club.
Eat your heart out, Greg Norman.
Tiger Woods will be joined on the tee by Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth on Thursday morning
SELECTED TEE TIMES
THURSDAY (US unless stated)
7.03pm: S Lowry (Ire), B Koepka, A Scott (Aus).
7.14: D Johnson, J Thomas, P Cantlay.
7.36: C Morikawa, J Rahm (Spa), S Scheffler.
1.38: X Schauffele, H Matsuyama (Jpn), T Finau.
1.49: T Hatton (Eng), B DeChambeau, M Homa.
2.11: R McIlroy (NI), T Woods, J Spieth.
(all UK times)
Whether the draw is a good one, mind, for McIlroy and Spieth is a moot point. McIlroy’s problems in majors in recent years have been caused by poor first rounds and it will be interesting to see whether he can deliver a good one amidst the maddening hordes who will only have eyes for Tiger.
Equally, this is the leg of the Slam that Spieth is missing and he could probably have done with a low-profile opener rather than one that immediately brings added pressure.
For the rest of us, of course, it is a draw to savour. Woods and McIlroy were paired together in this event in 2020 but that was during the pandemic when there were no crowds. Before that, they walked the fairways in the first two rounds in 2018, when Woods went on to finish runner-up to Brooks Koepka following an exciting weekend duel that set the scene for his Masters miracle the following April. McIlroy was 50th.
Woods was on good form during his press conference, even taking aim at old rival Phil Mickelson, who will not be defending the title that he won in historic circumstances last year. ‘It’s always disappointing when a defending champion isn’t present,’ he said. ‘But I’m committed to the PGA Tour and its legacy and Phil pushed back against that with views I strongly disagree with.’
Speaking before the draw was known, McIlroy could hardly have appeared more relaxed ahead of his 14th PGA, and the scene of his last major victory in 2014.
Dressed as usual from head to toe in Nike attire, the difference this time was that it was all gym gear rather than golfing clothes, with a workout his next port of call before nine holes after lunch.
His face positively lit up when asked for his first impressions of the Southern Hills course.
Rory McIlroy is relishing a ‘wonderful test’ at the scene of his last major victory in 2014
Super group adds pressure on Jordan Spieth as he seeks to complete career Grand Slam
‘I really like it,’ he began. ‘I don’t know what it was like before all the changes but I love what Gil (Hanse, the architect ) has done with it. I love that you’ve got so many options from the tee and you’re going to see some players hitting drivers and others taking irons.
‘I love the green complexes as well, and the fact you have to chip from the run-off areas rather than being able to putt the ball. I think it’s going to be a wonderful test.’
Turning to the dreaded Saudi topic, McIlroy looked sheepish when asked about his belief in February that the rebel tour was ‘dead in the water,’ saying: ‘I might have been a little presumptuous about that. Greg Norman and the people behind it are clearly very determined. One way or another, it’s going to shape professional golf and we’re just going to have to see how it shakes out.’
Not that McIlroy is holding his breath. ‘I’m sick and tired talking and hearing about it,’ he said. ‘I’ve made my decision, I know where I want to play and I’m certainly not standing in anyone else’s way as to where they should play. I just wish it was sorted so we can get back to what we want to do.’