PGA featured groups: McIlroy, Spieth, Z. Johnson

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AKRON, Ohio – Rory McIlroy is officially back.

After missing a pair of title defenses because of an ankle injury he suffered last month, Golf Channel has confirmed that McIlroy will return to action next week to defend his title at the PGA Championship.

McIlroy will tee it up in one of the marquee early-round groupings, playing alongside the two men who currently hold the other three major trophies: Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson.

Spieth, who won both the Masters and U.S. Open, is looking to become the first player to win all three U.S.-based majors in the same year, and could join Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods as the only players with three professional major wins in the same year.

While he has had incredible success this year, Spieth’s PGA Championship credentials are lacking. He has yet to play the weekend in the season’s final major, missing the cut each of the last two years.


Full-field tee times for the 97th PGA Championship


Fresh off his Open Championship win, Johnson will round out the grouping on a course where he, like McIlroy, came close to winning back in 2010. Both players tied for third, finishing one shot out of a playoff where Martin Kaymer beat Bubba Watson.

Another marquee group includes Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day. Johnson returns to Whistling Straits for the first time since he forfeited a 72nd-hole lead after inadvertently grounding his club in a bunker. He had another dose of major heartbreak this year at the U.S. Open, where he three-putted the final green to lose by one.

Day and Fowler each have a pair of worldwide wins to their credit this year, highlighted by Fowler’s playoff victory at The Players Championship. He narrowly missed out on his first major title at last year’s PGA, finishing T-3 behind McIlroy, while Day finished T-10 five years ago at Whistling Straits in his PGA Championship debut.

A third featured group will include a trio of former PGA champions in Tiger Woods, Martin Kaymer and Keegan Bradley. Woods has four PGA titles to his credit, most recently in 2007, and is making his first start since a T-18 finish at the Quicken Loans National. Kaymer won the event the last time it was held at Whistling Straits, while Bradley hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy in 2011. The trio will begin the opening round at 9:15 a.m. ET off the 10th tee.