FARMINGDALE, N.Y., May 16 (Reuters) - Masters champion Tiger Woods launched his quest for a second consecutive major title and a possible return to number one in the world rankings at the opening round of the PGA Championship on Thursday.
On a cool morning that dawned sunny after overnight rain on Long Island, Woods teed off at the par-four 10th hole at Bethpage Black, some two miles from the clubhouse.
Woods stayed away from Bethpage on Wednesday, but any injury concerns were dispelled when he turned up bright and early to prepare for his 8:24 a.m. (1224 GMT) tee time.
In his first start since collecting a 15th major title at last month’s Masters, Woods played alongside defending champion Brooks Koepka and British Open winner Francesco Molinari.
The 10th tee is at the far end of the course, some two miles from the clubhouse, requiring a lengthy van ride during which players had plenty of time to think about the day ahead.
Woods arrived 15 minutes before his tee time, adjusting his white belt as he exited the van.
His opening drive found the right rough at the hole, which on Thursday played a little shorter than its usual 502 yards, after officials moved the tees forward.
He ended up making a double-bogey after overshooting the green with his third shot, a demoralising start on a course that has few easy holes.
There is plenty at stake for Woods.
With a win he would match the all-time PGA Tour record of 82 wins set by Sam Snead, and move to within two majors of Jack Nicklaus’ all-time mark of 18.
He could also possibly reclaim top spot in the world rankings for the first time since March 2013.
Players teeing off early were greeted to a soft Bethpage Black layout that will put a premium on distance off the tee and play even longer than its listed distance of 7,459 yards given rainy weather earlier in the week.
After being contested in the dog days of summer for decades, the latest edition of the PGA Championship marks the first time since Sam Snead’s triumph in 1949 that the PGA of America’s flagship event is being held in May.
World number one Dustin Johnson was scheduled to tee off at 1:16 p.m. (1716 GMT) alongside Spaniard Jon Rahm and Jordan Spieth, who could complete the career grand slam of golf’s four majors with a win this week.
A high-profile threesome of former champions consisting of Phil Mickelson (2005), Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy (2012, 2014) and Australian Jason Day (2015) will head out at 1:38 p.m. in the fifth-to-last threesome off the first tee. (Reporting by Andrew Both; Writing by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)