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Koepka, Spieth arrive at big moment after rough start

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 13, 2019, file photo, Jordan Spieth walks down the 15th fairway during a practice round of The Players Championship golf tournament, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. The PGA Championship is set to begin May 16 on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park on New York's Long Island.

The setting is familiar, and so is the man who's favored to win one of golf's biggest tournaments. But the date? Well, it just feels a little weird.

Yes, the PGA Championship is already here. The best golfers in the world will tee it up Thursday through Sunday with a major on the line at Bethpage State Park's Black Course on Long Island in New York.

For about the last half-century, the PGA Championship has been played in August as the year's final major. But thanks to a big schedule shakeup, that took effect this year, the PGA is now the year's second major and played in May.

It may take some getting used to, but once the golf starts it will feel every bit like a major. The storylines are plentiful and intriguing, starting with Tiger Woods. And the Black Course is a proven gem, hosting its third major championship.

So how is it all going to play out this week? Here's everything you need to know about the 2019 PGA Championship.

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Tiger Woods' chances

Tiger Woods hasn't played since his remarkable victory at the Masters last month. But that has done nothing to dampen the hype and excitement surrounding the now 15-time major champion.

It feels like the early 2000s again - and it's fitting because he won the U.S. Open here in 2002. Woods is the heavy betting favorite and the biggest story, by far, heading into this tournament as he renews his quest to catch Jack Nicklaus at 18 majors.

But what about Woods' game? It's going to depend on his driver. Woods won't be able to get away with some of the big misses he had at Augusta. But if he can get the ball in the fairway, his iron game sets up perfectly for this course, and what a story a second consecutive major would be.

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Brooks Koepka tries to repeat

Brooks Koepka is the defending champ - he edged Woods in last year's PGA - and the best player in majors over the last three years.

And yet he'll arrive at Bethpage flying under the radar. Again.

He'll surely use it as motivation and don't be surprised to see him near the top of the leaderboard. He's finished top 25 in 12 of the last 13 majors he's played, including three wins in his last seven majors. He seems to love these moments, and the chance to take down more popular players, and his length should be a huge advantage on this long, difficult course.

He also has good Long Island vibes: he won the U.S. Open at Shinnecock last year.

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This won't be easy

Koepka won last year's birdie-fest of a PGA Championship at 16-under par. Unless there's a ton of rain, that's not going to happen on the notoriously tough Black Course, where only six players total broke par in the first two majors played here.

The PGA Championship won't be set up as tough as those U.S. Opens, but this course has a warning sign on it for a reason: It's really tough. The rough is thick, the par fours are long, and the bunkers are deep.

Don't expect to see double digits under par on the leaderboard in this major.

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The guys looking for their first

Despite the recent success of Koepka and Woods, 10 of the last 14 major championships have been claimed by first-time major winners.

And don't be surprised if it happens again at the PGA. There are just too many talented players who have yet to get the job done.

Rickie Fowler is at the top of the list, and he's had some success when the PGA Tour has stopped at the Black Course: a tie for 24th in 2012 and a tie for seventh in 2016. Jon Rahm and Tony Finau are two of the longest hitters on tour and both have a great chance if they drive the ball well. And Bryson DeChambeau, who won The Northern Trust at Paramus' Ridgewood CC last fall (designed by A.W. Tillinghast, the architect of the Black Course) has a knack for playing tough courses well.

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Holes to watch

4, Par 5, 517 yards: It's the most beautiful and memorable hole on the Black Course, and it's a definite birdie opportunity. But trouble lurks in the cross bunkers and hitting it over the green is a bad mistake. A good risk-reward hole early in the round.

7, Par 4, 524 yards: It's usually a Par 5, but for the pros it will be a brutally tough and long Par 4 - there's a lot of those on the Black Course. Try to cut too much off the corner from the tee and players risk finding deep trouble in the right trees. The green is accessible, but it'll take a precise shot with a long iron.

11, Par 4, 435 yards: This is one of the easier holes on the Black because it's shorter than most of the monster Par 4s. But nothing comes easy on this course. The tee shot is blind and the green is more undulating than most. Two good shots could yield a birdie, but a bad approach could quickly turn into trouble.

15, Par 4, 484 yards: Iconic, brutal difficult and late in the round. The 15th at Bethpage is a tortuous but wonderful hole. Hitting this elevated green from the middle of the fairway is not easy, and it's nearly impossible from the rough - even for the best players in the world. The green is guarded by deep bunkers and anything long of the hole is deep trouble. A hole that could win or lose the tournament on Sunday.

17, Par 3, 207 yards: It's certainly not the toughest hole here, but it's a fantastic setting at a pivotal point in the round. It's got a stadium-like feel with a ton of bleachers and big hill behind the green. There's room to hit a good shot onto this big green, but deep bunkers everywhere will make it intriguing with the tournament on the line.

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Group to watch

The full list of tee times won't be released until Friday, but we already know one very high-profile grouping.

Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari: Not only have these guys combined to win the last three majors, but they've battled each other to get it done. Molinari edged Woods at the British Open, Koepka beat Woods at last year's PGA. And Woods beat them both at the Masters this year. Now they'll start off the tournament together in the hopes of battling it out on Sunday again.

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Keep an eye on

Rory McIlroy: He's finished outside of the top 10 only once on the PGA Tour in 2019 (a tie for 21st at the Masters) and has had some success on the Black: most notably, a tie for 10th as a 20-year-old at the 2009 U.S. Open. If he putts well on these relatively flat greens, he'll be in the mix on Sunday.

Jason Day: He's been at his best in big events this year, finished tied for fifth at the Masters and tied for eighth at The Players. His high ball-flight is perfect for Bethpage, where he tied for fourth in 2016. His fragile back and putting are concerns, but he's too good to not win more majors - his only win was at the PGA Championship in 2015.

Dustin Johnson: Speaking of due, Johnson is still looking for major No. 2 - he captured his first at the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont, another notoriously difficult course. He's No. 1 in the world and when he's on with the driver, he's almost unbeatable. After losing to Koepka at Shinnecock last year, don't be surprised if Johnson captures the next Long Island major.

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