Darren Clarke to hit opening shot at The Open

Matthew Fitzpatrick, of SheffieldMatthew Fitzpatrick, of Sheffield
Matthew Fitzpatrick, of Sheffield
Former champion Darren Clarke will hit the opening tee shot in the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

Clarke, who owns a house overlooking the Dunluce Links, is scheduled to get play under way at 6.35am on Thursday alongside Amateur Championship winner James Sugrue from Ireland and American Charley Hoffman.

The 50-year-old lifted the Claret Jug at Royal St George’s in 2011 but has missed the cut in three of the last four years and had mixed feelings about his position as “honorary” starter, a role filled by Sandy Lyle, Mark O’Meara and Colin Montgomerie in recent years.

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“The question is are they going to put me off on the first tee shot at 6.30am?” Clarke said earlier this month. “That means you’re not really supposed to do any good in the tournament. We’ll see.”

Rory McIlroy, who set the course record of 61 at Portrush as a 16-year-old, will get his quest for a first major title in five years under way at 10.09am alongside US Open champion Gary Woodland and Paul Casey.

McIlroy admits it would “mean the world” to win a second Open title on home soil as Northern Ireland hosts the event for just the second time and the first since Max Faulkner’s victory in 1951.

Portrush native Graeme McDowell is off at 09.14am in the company of 2016 winner Henrik Stenson and American Xander Schauffele, who finished joint second at Carnoustie last year.

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Three-time winner Tiger Woods has a lengthy wait before getting his bid for a 16th major title under way, the 43-year-old teeing off at 3.10pm with his Ryder Cup team-mate Patrick Reed and England’s Matt Wallace.

World No 1 Brooks Koepka, who has finished second, first and second in the year’s majors to date, tees off at 1.04pm in the same group as 2010 champion Louis Oosthuizen.

Sheffield’s Matthew Fitzpatrick has a 7.30am start alongside Irishman Padraig Harrington and Andrew Putnam

Fellow Sheffielder Danny Willett tees off at 1.26pm with Jordan Spieth and Marc Leishman.