South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel will join world number one Dustin Johnson and crowd favourite Rory McIlroy for the opening two rounds of The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
Schwartzel joins the star duo on the tee at 15:48 as all three look for some early momentum in the year’s third Major in Southport. McIlroy enters the fold on the back of three missed cuts in his last four events, including two in a row on the European Tour’s lucrative Rolex Series. A number of putting changes has him searching for consistency, although leaving last week’s Scottish Open after 36 holes, he remains positive.
‘I’m waiting for something, some sort of spark to go right. The last couple of weeks have not been like that. I just have to keep plugging away and hope it turns round next week,’ said the Northern Irishman.
Schwartzel will be looking to add Major number two to his resume, but has not played since he missed the cut at the US Open. Similarly, Johnson also opted against looking for some tournament practice ahead of The Open, following his missed cut at the same event in mid-June.
Darren Fichardt it the first up from a South African point of view, with Byeong Hun An and veteran Tom Lehman in the 8:19 grouping.
One of the favourites to add to the list of first-time Major winners, Branden Grace, begins his pursuit of the Claret Jug alongside Jason Dufner and John Deere Classic winner Bryson DeChambeau at 8:52. Next up is Lyoness Open winner Dylan Frittelli at 9:25, who has England’s David Horsey and South Korean Younghan Song for company for the first 36 holes.
2010 Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen pegs it up at 10:58 on Thursday with Justin Rose and Justin Thomas. Oosthuizen wrote in his July column for this magazine that The Open is the time for him to shine and for the rest of the South African contingent. Before that group, reigning winner Henrik Stenson is joined by The Players champion Si-Woo Kim and Jordan Spieth.
After making his way into the event following his success on the Asian Tour, Shaun Norris is off at 11:31 with English journeyman Richard Bland and Italian amateur Luca Cianchetti.
A large crowd will no doubt swarm the first tee at 13:42 when Ernie Els begins his 99th Major. The 2012 winner will be joined by Ross Fisher (England) and big-hitting Bernd Wiesberger (Austria).
Brandon Stone was out on the course on Sunday looking to gain some local knowledge as he looks to survive a second Major cut after his first at June’s US Open. Stone will be off at 15:15 with two PGA TOUR regulars, Jhonattan Vegas and Sean O’Hair.
Five years after making his Open Championship debut, Jbe Kruger returns to the Major fold at 17:05 in the low-key three-ball including Nick McCarthy and Ashley Hall.