Wednesday 21 August 2019

Darren Clarke to start British Open with first shot as tee times announced

Darren Clarke will hit the first tee shot in Thursday's British Open first round at Royal Portrush. Photo: Darren Carroll/PGA of America
Darren Clarke will hit the first tee shot in Thursday's British Open first round at Royal Portrush. Photo: Darren Carroll/PGA of America

Martyn Herman

Darren Clarke will strike the British Open's first tee shot at Royal Portrush on Thursday.

Clarke will tee off at the County Antrim course at 6.35am, after the 2011 champion was grouped with Irish amateur James Sugrue and American Charley Hoffman.

The 50-year-old lifted the Claret Jug at Royal St George's in 2011 but has missed the cut in three of the last four years and had mixed feelings about his position as "honorary" starter, a role filled by Sandy Lyle, Mark O'Meara and Colin Montgomerie in recent years.

"The question is are they going to put me off on the first tee shot at 6.30am?" Clarke said earlier this month. "That means you're not really supposed to do any good in the tournament. We'll see.

"The bottom line is that in 10 days or so, I am going to tee it up on one of my favourite golf courses in the world in Portrush in The Open as a past champion. It doesn't get much better than that."

Rory McIlroy, who set the course record of 61 at Portrush as a 16-year-old, will get his quest for a first major title in five years under way at 10.09am alongside US Open champion Gary Woodland and Paul Casey.

McIlroy admits it would "mean the world" to win a second Open title on home soil as Northern Ireland hosts the event for just the second time and the first since Max Faulkner's victory in 1951.

Pádraig Harrington will tee off at 7.30am alongside England's Matthew Fitzpatrick and the USA's Andrew Putnam.

Shane Lowry tees off at 7.52am with the USA's Phil Mickelson and South Africa's Branden Grace.

Portrush native Graeme McDowell is off at 9.14am in the company of 2016 winner Henrik Stenson and American Xander Schauffele, who finished joint second at Carnoustie last year.

Three-time winner Tiger Woods has a lengthy wait before getting his bid for a 16th major title under way, the 43-year-old teeing off at 3.10pm with his Ryder Cup team-mate Patrick Reed and England's Matt Wallace.

World number one Brooks Koepka, who has finished second, first and second in the year's majors to date, tees off at 1.04pm in the same group as 2010 champion Louis Oosthuizen and India's Shubhankar Sharma.

Like many players in the field Koepka has never played Royal Portrush before, but his caddie Ricky Elliott was born and raised in the town and was a talented golfer in his own right, often competing against good friend McDowell in local and national tournaments.

The final group of Thailand's Gunn Charoenkul, Japan's Yosuke Asaji and England's Ashton Turner tee off at 4.16pm.

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