JOHNS CREEK, GA. (AP) - Several PGA professionals gathered around the tee on the first hole at Atlanta Athletic Club, breaking into applause when one of their own hit the fairway with his opening tee shot Thursday.
About that time, Tiger Woods was heading to the putting green to begin warming up for the PGA Championship, still seeking that 15th major title.
Under a rising sun and cloudless blue sky, Craig Stevens of Dallas teed off in the opening group at No. 1. Stevens was one of 20 club pros in the field for the final major the year. Over at the 10th, Ryan Moore led another threesome beginning its day on the back side.
Two hours later, Woods teed off in a group that included U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III and 2008 PGA champion Padraig Harrington of Ireland.
Woods, who hasn’t won a major title since the U.S. Open more than three years ago, missed the past two majors while letting injuries in his left leg properly heal.
Minor damage from a mowing accident on the 17th green had been repaired, although the brown edges of the new sod were visible. The PGA of America ruled the damaged area would be treated as ground under repair.
Paul Goydos settled in for what could be a long day, with no guarantee that he would even get to play.
Goydos has been the first alternate since the start of the week, and three days later, nothing had changed.
“I’ve got to stay on the tee,” Goydos said. “There’s like a blue line, and I’ve got to be inside the blue line, standing there like I’m a vulture. I told them they should give me a black hood and a scarlet letter. It’s an uncomfortable position that I earned.”
Goydos, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour who shot a 59 last year at the John Deere Classic, was at least allowed to play practice rounds.
The PGA Championship has the strongest field in golf, so strong that even the alternates can win, as John Daly did in 1991 at Crooked Stick. Goydos said he was not bothered that 57-year-old Jerry Pate, playing in only his second major in the past 20 years, asked the PGA for a special invitation even though he knows he can’t contend.
Pate wanted this to be his farewell to major championship golf because he won his only major _ the U.S. Open in 1976 _ at Atlanta Athletic Club and was born in Georgia.
“I don’t think he’s taking a spot,” Goydos said. “Arguably, you could say the way I’ve been playing, maybe I’d be taking up a spot. My record in the majors is nothing to write home about.
“For a player to complain, that’s petty at best.”
Dustin Johnson took a similar approach last year, when a two-stroke penalty on the 72nd hole kept him out of a playoff with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson.