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D. Johnson grouped with Spieth, Thomas at BMW

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They've combined for two wins and two runner-up finishes during this postseason, and now they'll play the first two rounds together as the BMW Championship returns to Conway Farms Golf Club. Here are a few of the marquee, early-round groups to keep an eye on as 70 players tee it up outside Chicago with hopes of advancing to next week's Tour Championship (all times ET):

10:33 a.m. Thursday, 12:55 p.m. Friday: Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Charles Howell III

Mickelson did just enough at TPC Boston to earn another Presidents Cup berth, but he'll need a strong week in Illinois if he wants to make the Tour Championship. He'll start this week's event alongside Garcia, who hasn't cracked the top 10 on the PGA Tour since winning the Masters, while Howell starts the week at No. 35 with an eye on making East Lake to qualify for a return to Augusta National.

11:33 a.m. Thursday, 1:50 p.m. Friday: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas

The three players who have had the most success over the first two events will play together with the top spot in the standings at stake. Johnson edged Spieth in a memorable playoff at The Northern Trust, while Thomas earned his fifth win of the season at TPC Boston. But with two runner-up finishes, it's Spieth who clings to the No. 1 seed at the halfway point.

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Current FedExCup Playoff points standings

12:17 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m. Friday: Rory McIlroy, Martin Laird, Ollie Schniederjans

A stop-and-start season could be coming to an end this week for McIlroy, who will need a big result if he wants to advance to East Lake. Joining him for the first two rounds in Lake Forest will be Laird, whose T-3 finish at the Quicken Loans National remains his lone top-10 since February, and Schniederjans, who nearly chased down Henrik Stenson to win last month's Wyndham Championship.

1:50 p.m. Thursday, 11:33 a.m. Friday: Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler

Matsuyama has won three times this season, including a rout last month at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He begins the week No. 4 in the points race and will be joined by Rahm, who has top-5 finishes in each of the first two playoff events, and Fowler, who tied for fourth two years ago when the BMW was last at Conway Farms.