Sport Golf

Saturday 17 February 2018

Armchair guide: What time stars come out to play

Karl MacGinty

Thursday morning (Friday afternoon)

7.25 (12.26): John Daly, Chad Campbell, Michael Hoey.

Dunhill Links title holder Hoey revels in the big time and is delighted to be drawn with crowd favourite Daly, winner of the 1995 British Open, and three-time US Ryder Cup star Campbell, who tied fifth at Sandwich. Hoey's only previous Open was at Lytham in 2001, when he qualified as Amateur champion.

8.42 (1.43): Adam Scott, Alan Dunbar (Am), Matt Kuchar.

Dunbar (22), recent winner of the British Amateur at Royal Troon, landed a plum draw in America's world No 8 Kuchar, who landed The Players at Sawgrass, and ever-affable Aussie Scott, No 13 in the world. Dunbar missed the cut in the recent Irish Open in his native Portrush.

9.09 (2.10): Darren Clarke, Ernie Els, Zach Johnson.

R&A chief Peter Dawson was at Lytham's front door yesterday morning to formally accept back the Claret Jug from Clarke. The Ulsterman will be comfortable with 2002 Muirfield Open winner Els and 2007 Masters champion Johnson, who beat Troy Matteson in sudden-death at Sunday's John Deere Classic.

9.20 (2.21): Lee Westwood, Yoshinori Fujimoto, Bubba Watson.

Westwood is under enough pressure trying to become England's first Open winner on home soil since Tony Jacklin at Lytham in 1969 without having to help Watson look for his ball. Masters champion Watson may find Lytham a slog. Fujimoto (22) clocked his first win on the Japan Tour in June.

9.31 (2.32): Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Hiroyuki Fujita.

Many quietly fancy 2010 US Open winner McDowell for the Claret Jug this week. He's nicely grouped with Johnson, his American playing partner on Sunday at Pebble Beach and tied-second behind Clarke at Sandwich, plus multiple Japan Tour-winner Fujita (43).

9.42 (2.43): Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia.

With three PGA Tour victories to his name in 2012, Woods is bookies' favourite for Major title No 15 here. Rose has the precision game and strategic nous to do well, while Garcia's greatest opponent at Lytham would appear to be the demons of doubt in his own head.

Thursday afternoon (Friday morning)

2.21 (9.09): Rory McIlroy, Louis Oosthuizen, Keegan Bradley.

Too much was made of McIlroy's frustrated assertion at Sandwich that he'd need good weather to win the Open. McIlroy has got all the shots, as does 2010 Open kingpin Oosthuizen. PGA champion Bradley missed the cut on his links debut at Portrush and is still learning the seaside art.

2.32 (9.20): Rickie Fowler, Padraig Harrington, Manuel Trappel (Am).

Two-time Open champion Harrington has been hitting it straight enough of the tee recently to inspire confidence. Fowler showed true links acumen in a share of fifth at Sandwich, then beat McIlroy in sudden-death at New Orleans in April for his first US win. Trappel is Austria's first European Amateur champion.

2.43 (9.31): Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy.

World No 1 Donald also will carry the expectations of the home crowd to the tee on Thursday. Importantly, four-time Major winner Mickelson and cerebral Aussie Ogilvy, the 2007 US Open champion, already have Major honours, while Mickelson shone in a share of second at Sandwich.

COMPILED BY KARL MacGINTY

Irish Independent

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