Tiger Woods will play the opening two rounds of the U.S. Open with Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson, which feels like a grouping of Nos. 1-2-3 in the world ranking.
Except that Woods is No. 80.
The USGA released its tee times Thursday for the U.S. Open next week at Shinnecock Hills, and it offered two stacked groups for the morning and afternoon.
Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy tee off together in the morning of the first round. Woods, Johnson and Thomas are together in the afternoon.
This is the 10-year anniversary of the USGA first putting together the Nos. 1-2-3 players in the world at Torrey Pines — Woods, Mickelson and Adam Scott.
Woods is playing the U.S. Open for the first time since he missed the cut at Chambers Bay in 2015. He has been out of golf for most of the past two years recovering from back surgeries, and his world ranking fell as low as No. 1,199 until returning to competition last December. In nine PGA Tour events, he has a pair of top 10s and had missed the cut only one time.
It will be the first time Woods and Johnson have played together in a major, and their first time in the same group since the opening two rounds of Torrey Pines in 2017 when both missed the cut. That doesn’t include the round they played with President Donald Trump the day after Thanksgiving last year.
Woods and Thomas have played together only once in competition, at Riviera in the Genesis Open, the only cut Woods has missed this year. But they play occasionally at home in south Florida.
Mickelson gets his third crack at Shinnecock Hills, where he was in position to win in 1995 and in 2004. In his first appearance, Mickelson played the par-5 16th in 6 over for the week and finished four shots behind Corey Pavin. The previous time, he briefly had a one-shot lead with two holes to play when he made double bogey on the 71st hole and lost by two shots to Retief Goosen.
The U.S. Open is the only major Mickelson lacks for the career Grand Slam. McIlroy and Spieth also have three legs of the career Slam, with McIlroy missing the Masters and Spieth lacking the PGA Championship.
This will be the fifth time Spieth and McIlroy, the two biggest attractions among the younger generation, play together in a major.
Mickelson previously has played with McIlroy four times in the majors, including the 2011 U.S. Open that McIlroy won by eight shots for his first major, and the 2013 British Open that Mickelson won at Muirfield.
The USGA went with an All-Spain group for Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm and Rafa Cabrera Bello; and All-Asian group with Li Haotong of China, Si Woo Kim of South Korea and Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand; and an All-England group featuring Tyrrell Hatton, Danny Willett and Ian Poulter.
Six spots have been set aside for those who get into the top 60 in the world this week, though only two players, Emiliano Grillo and Byeong Hun An, are assured of that and only one other player can make the top 60 by winning the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
The top of the order for alternates come from Japan (Rikuya Hoshino), Tennessee (Scott Piercy) and Ohio (Ted Potter Jr.), but that’s only to fill vacant spots. If a qualifier were to withdraw, his spot would be taken by the alternate from his sectional site.