The Open day one: Darren Clarke with the honour of opening tee shot
Reigning Open champion Franceso Molinari will launch his defence at 9.58am.
Local hero Darren Clarke will take the honour of hitting the first shot of The Open at Royal Portrush on Thursday, as Northern Ireland hosts the prestigious tournament for the first time in 68 years.
Here, PA looks at what to expect from day one of the season’s final major.
Groups to watch
Portrush resident Clarke will hit the opening tee shot at 6:35am on Thursday. Irish Amateur Championship winner James Sugrue will accompany Clarke, with the Cork man buoyed by turning out alongside the 2011 Open winner. Charley Hoffman will complete the opening group.
Reigning Open champion Franceso Molinari will launch his defence by stepping out alongside Bryson DeChambeau and Adam Scott, with the trio setting off at 9:58am.
Rory McIlroy’s 10th birthday present was his first-ever round at Portrush, and the 30-year-old will kick start his Open challenge at 10:09am, with reigning US open champion Gary Woodland and Paul Casey for company.
Tiger Woods steps into action in Portrush having admitted he still runs his Masters triumph from earlier this year back again and again in his mind. The 15-time major champion will set off at 3.10pm, with Matt Wallace, who finished third in the PGA Championship, and Patrick Reed alongside him.
Kaymer will have to get comfortable on the first
First reserve Martin Kaymer faces a lengthy wait by the first tee, keeping himself ready to step in should anybody drop out. It’s an open-ended process that could prove laborious, but the 34-year-old from Dusseldorf will jump at any chance to join the fray.
A big social engagement
— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) July 17, 2019
McIlroy showcases what is in store for Northern Ireland, and the watching world.
Rain and wind on the way
The rugged Northern Irish coast was bathed in sunshine on Monday afternoon, but by Wednesday morning the rain had arrived. The changeable weather patterns will certainly keep the competitors on their toes. While all involved can expect modest temperatures, rain is definitely predicted for Thursday’s first round.
Viewers in the UK can catch all the drama as it unfolds on Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event, from 6:30am on Thursday. Sky are also making parts of the day’s action available for free via SkySports.com.
History awaits for Northern Ireland
The spectre of terrorism over the years played its part in keeping The Open away from Northern Ireland. Home favourite McIlroy cannot overstate his delight at Royal Portrush hosting the major tournament for the first time since 1951. McIlroy said: “It doesn’t matter what side of the street you come from. To be able to have this tournament here again speaks volumes of where the country is now. It’s wonderful. One of my mantras this week is ‘look around and smell the roses’. To be part of this is an honour and a privilege.”