August 17, 2006

Tiger still the man to beat

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

MEDINAH, Illinois (Reuters) - The 88th PGA Championship,
the fourth and final major of the year, began under clear skies
at Medinah Country Club on Thursday.

Americans Mike Small, off the first, and Bob Estes, off the
10th, hit the opening shots of the day with a field of 156 set
to play the opening two rounds in a two-tee start.

World number one and twice champion Tiger Woods, bidding
for his 12th career major, was among several big names with
relatively early tee-off times on Medinah's No. 3 Course.

Winner of last month's British Open at Hoylake by two
shots, Woods was scheduled to start from the 10th tee at 0830
local (1330 GMT) in the company of Masters champion Phil
Mickelson and U.S. Open winner Geoff Ogilvy.

"You have the three major championship winners this year in
the same group, so that's always one of the premier pairings of
the PGA," Woods said in a news conference earlier this week.

"And then obviously the fans that Phil has and that the
fans I have, it'll make for a very loud atmosphere.


"But in either case, you've still got to place the golf
ball correctly and you've got to make putts."

Twice U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen will tee off four
groups ahead of Woods's threesome at 1250 GMT along with former
world number one David Duval and American Chad Campbell.

Among the late starters, twice winner Vijay Singh of Fiji
faced an 1835 GMT tee-off from the first, in the company of
past champions John Daly and Jeff Sluman of the U.S.

South Africa's Ernie Els will tee off two groups earlier at
1815 GMT with Spaniard Sergio Garcia and American veteran Fred

The PGA Championship has, in recent years, enjoyed the
strongest field of the four majors and 94 of the world's top
100 players are chasing the season's final grand slam title on
the longest course in major history.

"I will most likely just use one driver, and it would be
the longer driver to take advantage of some of the par fives
and the long par fours," said Mickelson, who won last year's
title by a stroke at Baltusrol.

"Medinah is such a long golf course that the extra length
has come in handy."

Weather forecasts expect conditions to become partially
cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms late in the afternoon.