Tiger joins Koepka, Molinari to start PGA Championship

Bethpage (United States) (AFP) –


Masters winner Tiger Woods will play alongside fellow reigning major champions Brooks Koepka and Francesco Molinari in the first two rounds of the 101st PGA Championship, the PGA of America confirmed Friday.

Pairings for next week's first two rounds at Bethpage Black were unveiled for the PGA Championship, which moves from August to May on the schedule this year just in time to welcome Woods after his sensational triumph last month at Augusta National.

Woods captured his 15th career major title, ending an 11-year major win drought since his 2008 US Open victory after years of battling back and knee injuries that threatened to cost him a normal life until he underwent spinal fusionm surgery.

Woods had challenged in last year's final two major tournaments during his comeback season but lost to two-time US Open champion Koepka at the PGA Championship and Molinari at the British Open.

They will tee off in Thursday's opening round at 8:24 a.m. (1224 GMT) from the 10th tee, with Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, Sweden's Alex Noren and American Xander Schauffele in the group just ahead of them.

Two groups in front of the current major winners will be England's second-ranked Justin Rose, two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and fellow American Rickie Fowler.

The 156-player field includes the entire top 100 in the world rankings, a first in the history of major golf, with 34 major winners and 12 players who have held the world number one ranking, including US current number one Dustin Johnson.

Jordan Spieth, who has struggled this season but could complete a career Grand Slam with a victory at Bethpage, tees off with Johnson and Spain's Jon Rahm on Thursday at 1:16 p.m. off the first tee.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy tees off two groups after that at 1:38 p.m. off the first tee alongside Australia's Jason Day and five-time major winner Phil Mickelson.