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Golf: McIlroy, Scott eye PGA Championship title

Rory McIlroy is confident he can keep dominating while Adam Scott wants to make a sizzling start on Thursday (Aug 7) at the 96th PGA Championship and Tiger Woods is nowhere in sight.

LOUISVILLE: Rory McIlroy is confident he can keep dominating while Adam Scott wants to make a sizzling start on Thursday (Aug 7) at the 96th PGA Championship and Tiger Woods is nowhere in sight.

The year's final major tournament tees off on Thursday at Valhalla with almost all of the world's 100 top players chasing the Wanamaker Trophy. New world number one McIlroy comes off winning his third major title at last month's British Open and taking his first World Golf Championships crown last Sunday at Akron, Ohio.

"I said at the beginning of the year that golf was looking for someone to put their hand up and sort of become one of the dominant players in the game," McIlroy said. "I felt like I had the ability to do that."

While McIlroy has been stellar, 14-time major winner Woods has been in Florida receiving treatment for the back injury he suffered Sunday in Akron, where he withdrew after his ninth-hole tee shot.

Woods, who underwent back surgery March 31 to ease a pinched nerve, has played only nine complete rounds since and had his worst 72-hole showing at a major at the British Open with a share of 69th, poor omens even if healthy for Valhalla, where he won the 2000 PGA.

"If I had injuries like this, I would probably make really, really sure that I'm healthy," said US Open winner Martin Kaymer of Germany, who will play alongside Masters winner Bubba Watson and McIlroy for the first two rounds. All three had won majors before this year, so this could be the first year since 2000 where all four major winners had won at least one before.

"You're just seeing the cycle of this decade's great players starting to write their part of golf history," said Scott. "It's always handy to have some kind of experience if you are playing in contention in a major. If you've won a major, then you have that knowledge you can do it and I think that's very helpful when you're playing."

LESSONS IN LOSING MAJORS

McIlroy misfired at the 2011 Masters when he led until the back nine on Sunday, then responded with wins at the 2011 US Open and 2012 PGA Championship. "It helps those guys and myself have been in those positions before. We've won majors so we know what it feels like on the back nine on Sunday," McIlroy said.

"Experience and knowing what it feels like to be in that position is a huge thing. Some of the guys coming through now have gotten that experience and have a little bit more knowhow into how to handle that situation better.

"It took me a couple of goes to get comfortable with the position of being in the mix in a major in the back nine on Sunday. You need those experiences. It's a very important part of trying to close out tournaments."

McIlroy has four top-10s including a win in prior PGAs, which use a set-up he enjoys. And he's arriving in top form. "Game feels in really good shape," he said. "Coming in here with a lot of confidence. It has been a tournament that I've really enjoyed and had some success at, so hopefully I can continue that trend this week."

Scott has watched Kaymer and McIlroy pull away to big leads on the way to winning majors and says a big start, something he hopes to have on Thursday morning, will be critical.

"We've seen the last couple of majors guys really putting their foot down and shooting some good scores," Scott said. "And if you're behind in a major it's even harder to come back. It doesn't happen very often.

"My game is generally in good shape. I think the swing is falling into a nice kind of rhythm so I'm excited for this week. It's like they have rolled the carpet out for a fairway."

Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, coming off a season-low 62 on Sunday at Akron, says birdies could be as abundant as they were at the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla, the only edition since 1999 won by the Americans over Europe.

"If you are within 15 to 20 feet you have a very good chance to make it. You have a consistent breaking putt," Mickelson said. "If you're outside 40 feet, it's difficult because you're not in the proper section and you have a lot of humps and bumps and challenges."

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