PALM BEACH GARDENS, FLA., AUG. 5 -- The fourth and final major golf championship of the year will start Thursday on a course baked by heat and damaged by chemicals.

Despite the less-than-perfect conditions, the top players in the world will battle for the 69th PGA Championship.

Play will begin at 7:30 a.m. over the 7,002-yard, par-72 PGA National championship course, with Bob Tway defending the title he won at Inverness last August.

Tournament favorites include last week's tour winner, Curtis Strange; leading money-winner Paul Azinger; Masters champion Larry Mize, and Tom Kite, who shot 10 under during the last two rounds in Memphis a week ago.

The opening two rounds will feature two glamor groups. One involves Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson, and the other includes the winners of this year's other three majors -- Mize, Scott Simpson and Nick Faldo.

They will be testing a course clogged by more than 100 bunkers and water hazards that come into play on 16 of the 18 holes.

Bigger hazards, however, will come from the heat and the inconsistent greens. On July 1, with the delicate bent grass greens already suffering because of unsually high temperatures and a deadly fungus, water was sprayed onto the putting surfaces from a lake on the PGA National Golf Club property. But that water had been doctored with chemicals in an attempt to rid the lake of algae. As a result, the putting surfaces won't be in top form.