Clarke to hit first tee shot to kick off Open


PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland — Former Open champion and Portrush resident Darren Clarke will hit the first tee shot to start The Open early Thursday morning as the tournament returns to Northern Ireland for just the second time.

Clarke, who won The Open in 2011 at Royal St. George’s, is among three major champions in the field who hail from the tiny country of Northern Ireland, where The Open was played just once previously, in 1951. This is just the second time the tournament is being played outside of Great Britain.

Tiger Woods, a three-time winner of the event who tied for sixth a year ago at Carnoustie, begins play at 10:10 a.m. ET (3:10 p.m. local time) along with England’s Matt Wallace and 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed. (5:09 a.m., 10:09 a.m. local time on Friday.)

Four-time major champion and this year’s PGA winner Brooks Koepka is with South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen and Shubhankar Sharma at 8:04 a.m. (1:04 p.m).

Rory McIlroy, one of the pre-tournament favorites who is from Holywood, Northern Ireland, is off at 5:09 a.m. (10:09 a.m. local time) with U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland and England’s Paul Casey.

Graeme McDowell, who grew up in Portrush, plays with 2016 Open champion Henrik Stenson and 2018 runner-up Xander Schauffele at 4:14 a.m. (9:14 a.m. local time.)

Clarke will hit the opening tee shot at 1:35 a.m. (6:35 a.m. local time) and is grouped with Irish amateur James Segrue and American Charley Hoffman.

Some of the other groupings: Phil Mickelson, Ireland’s Shane Lowry and South Africa’s Branden Grace (2:52 a.m., 7:52 a.m. local); defending champion Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau and Adam Scott (4:58 a.m., 9:58 local); Rickie Fowler, Kevin Kisner and Hideki Matsuyama (5:20 a.m., 10:20 a.m. local); Justin Rose, Tony Finau and Lucas Bjerregaard (9:48 a.m., 2:48 p.m. local); Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Keegan Bradley (9:59 a.m., 2:59 p.m. local).

All 156 players tee off the first tee, with the last tee time at 4:16 p.m. local time.

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