The groupings for the first two rounds of the 146th Open Championship were announced Monday morning. The tournament will begin at 6:35 AM local time Thursday morning when Mark O’Meara, Ryan Moore and Chris Wood tee off. O’Meara won the Open at Royal Birkdale in 1998. Irishman Padraig Harrington, the champion of the 2008 Open at Birkdale will tee off at 9:36 local time (4:36 ET) with Pat Perez and Thomas Pieters. Defending champion Henrik Stenson will tee off at 9:47 with Jordan Spieth an Si Woo Kim in one of the more appealing groups. Some of the notable groups are Louis Oosthuizen, Justin Rose, and Justin Thomas (4:58 ET); Brooks Koepka, Hideki Matsuyama, and Tommy Fleetwood (5:20); Zach Johnson, Jason Day, and Masters champ Sergio Grcia (8:04); Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott, and Paul Casey (8:26); and Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, and Charl Schwartzel (9:48).
Fans should not anticipate a performance anything close to Stenson’s tournament winning 20 under that was put up last year at Royal Troon going into this year’s championship, however. Royal Birkdale, considered by many to be the best links course, will undoubtedly produce scores over or close to par for the tournament. When Harrington won in 2008, he was three shots over par after 72 holes while O’Meara won in ’98 while shooting even par for the tournament.
With many of the world’s best golfers not in top shape, expect the trend of first-time major-winners to continue at Royal Birkdale. That being said, I think—amongst favorites such as Fowler, McIlroy, Spieth, and Johnson—some smart picks to win are Tommy Fleetwood from nearby Southport and Hideki Matsuyama. Both golfers are coming off top-5 finishes at the US Open, playing solid golf, and possess styles of play that are fit to succeed on links courses.
Featured Image via Wikimedia