Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

Early start for McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy will not have to wait long to begin his bid to become the youngest Open champion since 1893 at Sandwich this week.

The US Open champion - the youngest winner of that event since Bobby Jones in 1923 - will tee off in Thursday's first round at 9:09am, alongside 2002 winner Ernie Els and American Rickie Fowler.

McIlroy will start favourite at Royal St George's and the 22-year-old will be looking for a similar start to last year at St Andrews, where he opened with a record-equalling 63 and went on to finish third, despite crashing to an 80 in bad weather in the second round.

The Northern Ireland youngster has not played a competitive round since his stunning US Open triumph at Congressional last month, but practised on the course last week and will give his pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday.

American Jerry Kelly will hit the first shot at 6:30am, but may not exactly be relishing the prospect after taking 11 on the opening hole when the Open was last staged here in 2003.

Tiger Woods also fell victim to that hole in bad weather, running up a triple-bogey seven and eventually finishing two shots behind shock winner Ben Curtis, but the former world number one is absent this time due to injury.

Other notable pairings see world number one Luke Donald - fresh from his victory in the rain-shortened Barclays Scottish Open on Sunday - out in the group immediately after McIlroy, the Englishman alongside Japan's Ryo Ishikawa and Sergio Garcia.

World number two Lee Westwood, third and second in the Open in the last two years, is alongside US Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and American Steve Stricker at 2:10pm, with defending champion Louis Oosthuizen in the group behind with world number three Martin Kaymer and Phil Mickelson.

British amateur Tom Lewis, from the same Welwyn Garden City club which launched the career of three-time winner Sir Nick Faldo, is out at 2:32pm with five-time champion Tom Watson and Sweden's Henrik Stenson.

The last man to tee off will be Singapore's Lam Chih-bing, who has to wait until 4:11pm to begin his Open campaign, while first reserve Thomas Bjorn will know by then if his long wait has been in vain.

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