PGA Championship: Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy lead odds

Mike Small

Ten years after his last major victory and five years since his last triumph, Tiger Woods is back on the prowl and a new generation of rivals couldn't be more thrilled. Thomas plays the opening two days with Woods and Rory McIlroy.

An emotional Jason Day and Rickie Fowler are among the golf stars who put themselves in the mix while playing with heavy hearts on day one at the US PGA Championships in Missouri.

"I think, in my generation we were all looking up to him, especially around 2000, 2001, 2002", offered an unruffled Molinari.

At the Championship, Justin Thomas is back as defending champion and up to No. 2 in the world, behind only Dustin Johnson.

"There's a lot of different layers to what Tiger has to go through to win again", said McIlroy. It is why he was asked repeatedly about inflammation Tuesday at Bellerive Country Club. "I've gotten into a couple of bad habits, as you said, and that just makes it a little tougher for me to be consistent with a shorter club in my hand".

But the 29-year-old has also struggled to convert several other opportunities, most notably when chasing the career grand slam in the Masters and failing to convert a three-shot halfway lead in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. He's first on Tour in strokes gained tee to green, first in scoring average, tied for first with wins and first in the FedEx Cup standings, and a win this week would establish him as the frontrunner for 2018 Player of the Year.

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I came back on Monday so it was very hard for the legs and the stamina but we played very well. "I doubt he'll be going anywhere this season".

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The reigning PGA Championship victor averages 313.8 yards off the tee, putting him ninth on the PGA Tour in driving distance and within spitting distance of big hitters such as Dustin Johnson. I'm 42 now and I've had four back surgeries.

Johnson, the 2016 U.S. Open champion, said a victory and chance to lift the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday would turn a good year into something else. Time is running out, as it relates to preparing for the PGA Championship, and for a season that is being measured differently.

"I hit some balls today and felt absolutely fine and really comfortable with my swing and the way it's moving", he said. The times where I haven't won and I haven't played my best, I try to learn from it and I move on.

"I've been blessed to play this long", Love said.

"Keep putting ourselves in position, get in contention, we have had plenty of runner-ups, Jack (Nicklaus) had a lot of runner-ups, we'll just keep beating down that door". "A good year becomes a phenomenal year with a major championship".

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