Wednesday, August 13
First-round viewer's guide
The basics: Tee times | TV | Course | History
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Ninety-six of the top 100 players in the World Ranking are here this week vying for the Wanamaker Trophy, the fourth-strongest field in tournament history.
Sixty international players from 19 countries will be competing. CBS and TNT will provide 27 hours of television for viewers in the United States, and the tournament will be broadcast in 186 countries.
Here's what you need to know before you sit down to watch Thursday's first round (all times Eastern):
Five feature pairings
8:20 am (10th tee): Thomas Bjorn, Phil Mickelson, Kenny Perry
The sixth group of the day off the 10th tee features two of the hottest players on either side of the Atlantic ... and Phil Mickelson. Bjorn bounced back from his 70th-hole meltdown at the British (he ended up tying for second) with a playoff loss at the Irish Open the next week and a T18 at the Nordic. Perry, meanwhile, has three wins and seven top 10s in his last seven tournaments. He has a score to settle with the PGA after his controversial playoff loss in 1996 and is one of the favorites to take home his first major.
8:50 am (First tee): Mike Weir, Jim Furyk, Ben Curtis
The three major winners in 2003 will be paired together for the first two rounds. Look for Furyk to lead this group, as Weir and Curtis both said this week they're not thrilled with their swings. Furyk is among the straightest drivers on tour, and finding the fairway will be key at Oak Hill.
9 am (10th tee): Rich Beem, David Toms, Tiger Woods
The last three PGA champions will probably get the biggest gallery of the day, mostly because of Tiger. As the defending champ last year, Toms was paired with Woods for the first two rounds and couldn't handle Hazeltine, shooting a 77-74 to miss the cut by two strokes. Beem could suffer the same fate as the defending champ this year. Woods has started out fast at the PGA the past three years, averaging a 67.6 in the opening round over that span.
1:35 pm (First tee): Ernie Els, Justin Leonard, Mark Calcavecchia
Els has won five times this year, but none of those victories have come in the majors. One of his goals is to complete the career Grand Slam, and the PGA is one of the two majors he's yet to conquer (along with The Masters). He was 18th at the British a few weeks ago, and was in the top 6 at the U.S. Open and Masters. Leonard led after 54 holes at Hazeltine last year but shot a disappointing final-round 77 to finish six strokes back of Beem. Calcavecchia has finished in the top 10 at the last two PGAs.
2:05 pm (First tee): Davis Love III, Vijay Singh, Hal Sutton
Love and Singh are two of the hottest players in golf, and each member of this group is a former PGA champion. Love comes off a record 12-point victory at the International, while Singh has two runner-up finishes in his past three events. Both are on the short list of favorites this week.
Keep an eye on ...
It's all the players have been talking about the past couple of days here in Rochester. More than 4-inches long and still growing (the PGA says it's unlikely to be mowed before Sunday because of damp conditions), the rough has been described by many to be as thick -- if not thicker -- than what you usually find at the U.S. Open. It will be a huge factor this week.
A tough finish:
Oak Hill saves two of its hardest holes for last. You won't see many wedges on these two monsters -- the par-4, 495-yard 17th
and par-4, 482-yard 18th
-- unless they're needed to escape the punishing rough. Love called them "two of the hardest back-to-back holes at any major I can remember."
In two weeks at the Champions Tour's Tradition, Watson will become the first to play nine majors in a single calendar year. He hasn't just played in them, however, he's contended. He won the Senior British Open and finished runner-up in two other senior majors. At the U.S. Open, he shared the first-round lead after opening with a 65, and was near the top after the first day at the British, as well. Could he pull a third consecutive first-round surprise at the PGA Championship this week (Thursday tee time: 2:15 pm)? If he does, he'll do it without inspirational caddie Bruce Edwards, who's currently in the Bahamas receiving treatment for ALS.
The longest hitter on tour (319.8-yard average) returns to the site of his 1998 U.S. Amateur victory to play in his first major championship. Kuehne, who was given a special invite by the PGA, will likely be the only player that can reach the 598-yard par-5 13th in two -- "if I have that opportunity, I definitely think I should try and take it," -- and he'll likely go for the green off the tee on the 323-yard par-4 14th hole, as well. The tight fairways and deep rough don't seem like they favor a long bomber like Kuehne, but don't count him out at Oak Hill, he's already won here once (Thursday tee time: 1:05 pm). And we all remember the last guy who won the first major he played in.
This is the major of the long-shot champion, and the year of the first-timer, so watch for at least one name you didn't expect to climb the leaderboard this week at Oak Hill. Twelve of the past 15 PGA Championships have been won by players without a previous major championship victory.
This is the last chance for players to qualify for the President's Cup. Charles Howell III
sits in the last automatic spot for the Americans at 10th, while Bob Estes
and Fred Funk
are right on his tail. United States captain Jack Nicklaus
will make his two captain's picks Monday but has indicated he'll likely select the 11th- and 12th-ranked players on the list.
David Lefort is the golf editor at ESPN.com, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.