Woods the cynosure; young guns threaten

Golf PGA Championship

In all, 98 of the world's top 100 players have assembled at Atlanta Athletic Club for Thursday's opening round and you can bet that at least a handful will go on to deliver their 'A' games in pursuit of the season's last shot at major glory.

Remarkably, there have been nine first-time winners in the last 10 majors with Phil Mickelson's emotional victory at the 2010 Masters the sole exception. The golfing landscape has become increasingly global in recent years and players from countries ranging from Ireland and Fiji to Zimbabwe and South Korea can boast winners in the year's final major.

“Everybody out here has the ability to put it together for a week and when that week comes around, they can be unbeatable,” said Britain's Justin Rose, a double winner on the PGA Tour.

“The strength and depth out here now is very, very strong.” Woods, who has claimed four PGA Championship titles, has been a shadow of his former self while battling injuries and trying to rebuild his golf swing and his private life following the break-up of his marriage.

Last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational provided a glimpse into the likely face of golf's future with 19-year-old Japanese Ryo Ishikawa, American Rickie Fowler, 22, Australian Jason Day, 23, and Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, 22, all challenging for the title. World number four McIlroy has already made a major mark on the game, winning the US Open in record style by a staggering eight shots at Congressional in June.

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