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McIlroy and Scott set for PGA showdown

GOLF'S big guns Rory McIlory and Adam Scott are set for another shootout at the US PGA Championship in Kentucky.

RORY McIlroy is confident he can keep dominating while Adam Scott wants to make a sizzling start at the 96th PGA Championship, where 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.

FULL COVERAGE: PGA CHAMPIONSHIP MICROSITE

New world No.1 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 on 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."

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.

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 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."

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," he said.

"You have a consistent breaking putt. If you're outside 40 feet, it's difficult."

AAP

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