Tiger Woods talks to the media during his news conference before the start of the 93rd PGA Championship golf tournament at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek
Tiger Woods of the U.S. talks to the media during his news conference following his final practice round before the start of the 93rd PGA Championship golf tournament at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Georgia, August 10, 2011. Reuters

The 93rd U.S. PGA Championship, the year's final major, began at Atlanta Athletic Club under sunny skies Thursday as four-times winner Tiger Woods prepared for an early morning teeoff.

American club professional Craig Stevens ended up in the middle of the fairway with the opening shot at the par-four first before hitting his approach to 30 feet and comfortably two-putting for par.

His playing partners, fellow American John Rollins and Brendon de Jonge of Zimbabwe, each bogeyed the hole.

Former world number one Woods, whose ranking has slipped to 30th after battling leg injuries this season while trying to rebuild his golf swing and his private life, was set to start his opening round from the 10th hole at 0835 local time (1235


The American, hunting his 15th major title but first since the 2008 U.S. Open, has been grouped with former champions Padraig Harrington of Ireland and American Davis Love III for the first two rounds.

In keeping with tradition, the year's first three major winners have been paired together -- Darren Clarke (British Open), fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy (U.S. Open) and South African Charl Schwartzel (Masters).

Clarke and company were set to start on the first tee from 1:45 p.m.

In other high-profile groupings, holder Martin Kaymer of Germany has been drawn with former winners Yang Yong-eun of South Korea and American Shaun Micheel while two more Americans, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler, will play with Spaniard Sergio Garcia.

British world number one Luke Donald will set off in the opening round in the company of long-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros and American Nick Watney.

David Toms, who won the last PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club in 2001, has been paired with fellow American Phil Mickelson and Fiji's Vijay Singh, both former winners.

The PGA Championship has, in recent years, enjoyed the strongest field of the four majors and 98 of the world's top 100 players are chasing the season's final grand slam title this week.

Weather forecasts called for a mix of sunny and cloudy conditions, along with heat and humidity, for the rest of Thursday with a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon.