McIlroy paired with rising stars

Rory McIlroy will get his Open Championship bid under way at Royal Liverpool on Thursday as the elder statesman in group containing rising stars Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama.

McIlroy paired with rising stars

Yesterday’s draw for the opening two rounds has thrown together 25-year-old McIlroy, Ireland’s two-time Major winner, with younger guns Matsuyama, 22, and 20-year-old Spieth, their combined age just two years older than five-time champion Tom Watson, whose most recent win came in 1983, almost six years before McIlroy was born.

Japan’s Matsuyama, who won the Memorial Tournament in May, and American Spieth, this year’s Masters runner-up, will tee off their first round with McIlroy at 9.26am on Thursday, with a 2.27pm second round tee time when the Irishman will hope to have banished his Friday horrors following a 78 on day two of the Scottish Open last week.

Watson, this year’s US Ryder Cup captain, partners Jim Furyk and 2011 Open champion Darren Clarke, who gets the seven-man Irish challenge under way at 8.26am, while two-time Claret Jug winner Pádraig Harrington begins his week at 9.15am in the company of KJ Choi and Charl Schwartzel.

Graeme McDowell will be looking to hit the ground running at Hoylake on Thursday as he makes his first appearance since winning the French Open a fortnight ago, the Portrush golfer starting at 9.48am with Louis Oosthuizen and Matt Kuchar.

The rest of the Irish contingent have been given much later starts to their Open bids with Michael Hoey off at 12.21pm, amateur qualifier Paul Dunne out at 3.11pm and Shane Lowry, fourth in the Scottish Open, teeing off at 3.22pm.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson launches his title defence at 2.05pm alongside Masters champion Bubba Watson and 2012 Open winner Ernie Els while Tiger Woods starts his first Major of the season following lower back surgery with a Thursday tee-time at 9.04 with Angel Cabrera and Henrik Stenson.

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