Knowing how to get butts in the seats, the PGA Tour has paired defending champion Jason Day, 2014 winner Rory McIlroy, and recent Open Championship runner-up Phil Mickelson together for the first two rounds of the PGA Championship, which gets underway Thursday at Baltusrol.
Day is the obvious draw – ranked No. 1 and the winner here a year ago; McIlroy has “slipped” all the way to No. 5 in the world after seeing time at No. 1 as late as a year ago, but Mickelson might get the most applause of the trio if he’s in contention after 36 holes. One of the unexpected side effects of Tiger Woods’ descent into injury hell is more golf fans truly appreciating how fantastic Mickelson’s career has been, and desiring to see him win another Major; this is the perfect spot, he won the PGA here in 2005.
Even more impressive from a 2016 perspective is the trio of Masters champion Danny Willett, US Open champion Dustin Johnson, and Open Championship winner Henrik Stenson. Johnson is playing the best of the three, but who knows what Stenson will do in his first action since his Sunday 63 at Royal Troon?
Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth might not care for being relegated to the third-best group, but it’s likely neither one of them really cares about anything but winning at this point. The pair of Top 10 Americans are matched with Sergio Garcia for the first two rounds. Watson had just one win and three top 10 finishes in 13 events this year, and has finished in the top 25 just once since taking second at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March. With Stenson winning his first Major two weeks ago, Garcia is once again the best player in the world without one – he has 21 Top 10 finishes at Majors including three runners-up.