Jul 29, 2016

    Early tee-offs for Day, McIlroy and Mickelson


    WORLD No. 1 Jason Day, four-time Major champion Rory McIlroy and five-time Major winner Phil Mickelson were poised to make morning charges at Baltusrol as the 98th PGA Championship began yesterday.

    Sunny skies greeted the early starters from the field of 156, the strongest line-up of talent in any event based on world rankings since their 1986 creation.

    The 7,428-yard, par-70 layout features only two par-five holes, those at 17 and 18 to ensure drama and eagle chances to the end.

    Defending champion Day has struggled in the run-up to the year's final Major tournament with only a Wednesday practice round, an illness and a hospital trip after his wife Ellie suffered an allergic reaction after the Champions Dinner on Tuesday.

    McIlroy, playing alongside Day, won the Irish Open and has nine other top-10 showings in US and European Tour events this year, including a share of fifth at the British Open two weeks ago.

    Mickelson, who completes the trio teeing off at the 10th hole 90 minutes after the opening shot, won the 2005 PGA at Baltusrol. He comes in off his 11th runner-up showing in a Major, having lost a duel with Sweden's Henrik Stenson at the British Open.

    At 46, the American left-hander would be the fourth-oldest Major winner if he claims the title.

    And it does not hurt that "Lefty" is a fan favourite in the metro New York area.

    "It not only makes it fun to play but it also keeps my energy level up throughout the round when I have a tendency to make a mistake or two," Mickelson said.

    "It helps me overcome some of those mistakes. I'm very appreciative for the way people here have treated me."

    Other early starters include past PGA winners Vijay Singh, John Daly and Padraig Harrington, South African four-time Major winner Ernie Els, Americans Rickie Fowler and Zach Johnson, Japan's Hideki Matsuyama and Australian Adam Scott.