Darren Clarke will have the honour of striking the first ball at The 148th Open on Thursday as major championship golf returns to Royal Portrush for the first time since 1951.
The 2011 Open champion, the oldest major’s most senior winner when he lifted the Claret Jug at Royal St George’s at the age of 42, credited his greatest victory to his regular practice at Portrush and the local resident has been given the opportunity to lead the way over the Dunluce Links, having been given a 6:35am tee-time in the company of British Amateur champion and fellow Irishman James Sugrue and American Charley Hoffman.
Tournament favourite and course-record holder Rory McIlroy will get his bid for a second Open title and fifth major underway at 10:09 alongside US Open champion Gary Woodland and England’s Paul Casey with defending champion Francesco Molinari beginning his title defence in the preceding group with Bryson DeChambeau and Adam Scott.
Hometown favourite Graeme McDowell goes off at 9:14 on Thursday with 2016 champion Henrik Stenson and American Ryder Cupper Xander Schauffele while another group sure to attract large crowds on the Antrim coast will be Ireland’s Shane Lowry and 2013 champion Phil Mickelson, off at 7:52am with Branden Grace of South Africa with two-time champion Padraig Harrington getting his tournament up and running 22 minutes earlier.
World number one and reigning PGA champion Brooks Koepka is off at 1:04pm while among the marquee groupings later in the day, when conditions are forecast to be at their toughest on day one, Tiger Woods begins his bid for a second major of the year following his Masters success at 3:10pm alongside Matt Wallace and Patrick Reed with Irish Open champion Jon Rahm in the next group out at 3:21.