2018 PGA Championship tee times are out. Here are 5 groups we'll be watching

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Naturally, the PGA Championship — the final major of the year — has an incredibly strong field. Last year, 97 of the Top 100 players in the world teed it up at Quail Hollow.

When the PGA of America released the tee times for the tournament Friday, there were quite a few pairings that caught our eye.

Former PGA Championship winners, all three reigning major champions, golfers at the peak of their game — there is a whole lot of great golf to watch.

Here are the top five pairings we’ll be following at Bellerive.

Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Keegan Bradley

Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Keegan Bradley

Thursday tee time: 9:01 a.m. ET
Friday tee time: 2:26 p.m. ET

What we'll be watching: These three former PGA Champions. Phil’s last tournament win came in March at the WGC-Mexico Championship where he shot 16-under and beat Justin Thomas in a playoff. The 2005 PGA Champion has played quite well since, with three Top 15 finishes and only one missed cut in nine tournaments. Phil, who turned 48 in June, would be the second-oldest major champ ever if he wins at Bellerive. Maybe that'd be cause to break out his newly famous (infamous?) dance.

The other two PGA Champions rounding out this pairing offer plenty of intrigue as well. Jason Day, who won the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, has already won twice this year: at the Farmers Insurance Open in January, and the Wells Fargo Championship in May. In the three other majors in 2018, he finished T20 (Masters), Cut (U.S. Open), and T17 (British Open). Bradley may not have won on the Tour yet this year, but he has managed four Top 10 finishes, including fourth place at the RBC Canadian Open in late July. He's also the 2011 PGA Champion.

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Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas

Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas

Thursday tee time: 9:23 a.m. ET
Friday tee time: 2:48 p.m. ET

What we'll be watching: Hey, it's three more PGA Champions. Tiger’s performance at the Open Championship set the stage for Bellerive. After two rounds of even par at Carnoustie, the four-time PGA Champion shot 5-under Saturday, and snagged sole possession of the lead on Sunday before trouble on the back nine dropped him to a T6 finish. It was Tiger’s second Top 10 finish in a row (after T4 at the Quicken Loans National in early July), and his 7th finish in the Top 15 this year. There’s a chance that come Sunday, Tiger will be competing for his first major title since 2008. 

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If that’s not enough reason to watch this group, you’ve also got defending PGA Champion Justin Thomas (who has won three times this season: at the CJ Cup in October, The Honda Classic in February and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last week), and two-time champ Rory McIlroy, (who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March).

Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose

Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose

Thursday tee time: 2:37 p.m. ET
Friday tee time: 9:12 a.m. ET

What we'll be watching: Only five players have ever won golf’s four majors in their careers — Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, and Gene Sarazen. Last year, Jordan Spieth added the third notch to his belt with the Open Championship. The only thing he needs to add his name to the above list is the Wanamaker Trophy. That's about as good a storyline as you can get in a major.

Alongside him will be two soon-to-be rivals in Jon Rahm and Justin Rose, likely bound for Team Europe in the Ryder Cup. Rahm is one of the world’s best young players, and Rose finished second at The Open, just two shots back of Francesco Molinari. Rose withdrew from the WGC-Bridgestone so his status is somewhat questionable. We'd be surprised if Rose, one of the world's most consistent players, didn't play at Bellerive.

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Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari

Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari

Thursday tee time: 2:15 p.m. ET
Friday tee time: 8:50 a.m. ET

Reason to watch: The current champions group. This threesome contains the winners of all three of this year’s major championships thus far: The Masters (Reed), the U.S. Open (Koepka), and the Open Championship (Molinari). None of the three have won the PGA Championship. The past two years have seen each of them come agonizingly close, though.

In 2016, Koepka was 9-under, tied for third heading into the final round, but finished even par Sunday, five strokes back of winner Jimmy Walker.

On Sunday of last year’s tournament, Reed birdied three holes on the back nine to climb within one shot of the lead, but finished with a bogey on 18 and watched Justin Thomas win with a two-stroke margin.

Molinari was right there in 2017, too. A second-round 7-under 64 shot him up the leaderboard, and a 67 Sunday helped him finish tied for second with Reed, but a 73 Thursday and 74 Saturday were too much to overcome.

Jim Furyk, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele

Jim Furyk, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele

Thursday tee time: 8:17 a.m. ET
Friday tee time: 1:42 p.m. ET

Reason to watch: There's a great Ryder Cup subplot here as Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk will get a good look at Schauffele and Finau, who are currently 11th and 14th in the Ryder Cup rankings.

This year, Finau has racked up seven Top 10 finishes. And in his first year playing all four majors, he's certainly impressed: T10 at the Masters, fifth at the U.S. Open, and T9 at The Open. The 28-year-old knows how to show up on the biggest stages. 

Schauffele is coming off of a T6 finish at the U.S. Open, and T2 at The Open. In Carnoustie, Schauffele was tied for first at 9-under heading into Sunday, but went 4-over on holes No. 5-7 in his final round, and couldn't recover, finishing two shots back of Molinari.

Furyk has just one finish inside the Top 25 this season in limited action but has plenty of history with this tournament. He has six Top 10 finishes in his PGA Championship history.

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