When asked recently if he would consider his year a success, Tiger Woods firmly, even defiantly, said yes. By most standards, any other player would be showered with praise for the kind of year Woods has put together. He is the money leader by almost $3 million and has a commanding hold in the Fed Ex Cup standings.
But heading into the first round of the PGA Championship at Oak Hill on Thursday, fans know the 14-time major champion wants nothing more than to dispel naysayers and critics that claim his best years are behind him.
Woods will try to use the incredible momentum he gained last week in the WGC Bridgestone, where he cleared the rest of the field by seven strokes. Finishing with a 15-under 265, Woods built his lead with a nine-under 61 second round complete with seven birdies and one eagle.
Woods started his round at 8:35 a.m. ET and is paired with Americans Keegan Bradley and Davis Love III.
Tiger rival No. 2 ranked Phil Mickelson finished in 21st place at Bridgestone, but is still riding the high from his comeback victory at the British Open last month. In his typical all-or-nothing style, Mickelson has finished in the top three on four occasions, and missed two cuts in his last seven tournaments.
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He tees off at 1:45 p.m. with England’s Justin Rose and Masters champion Adam Scott.
Then there’s defending champion Rory McIlroy who’s faced plenty of criticism like Woods for his inconsistent play this year. The 24-year-old was on top of the golf world with his remarkable end to last season when he finished the PGAs with a solid 13-under 275 and then took the Deutsche Bank and BMW titles to close out the year.
However, this year he has four top-10 finishes in 12 tournaments with no victories, and over his last four contests he come in 57th, 41st, missed a cut, and 27th, respectively.
McIlroy will start at 1:25 p.m. with Germany’s Martin Kaymer and veteran Vijay Singh.
A full list of tee times can be found at the PGA Championship’s main site here.
The weather forecast calls for mostly clear skies until later in the afternoon, when isolated thunderstorms are expected.
A live online stream from Oak Hill can be found on the PGA’s official site here.
TNT will pick up television coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET