Stenson begins title defense alongside Spieth, Kim
Champion Golfer of the Year Henrik Stenson will begin defense of his title alongside Jordan Spieth and Si Woo Kim Thursday at Royal Birkdale.
Groupings have been released for the first two rounds of The 146th Open, and they include Champion Golfer of the Year Henrik Stenson headlining an international trio as he looks to retain the Claret Jug.
Stenson’s title defense will begin at 4:47 a.m. ET Thursday, where he will play alongside Jordan Spieth and Si Woo Kim. Spieth is making his first start since winning the Travelers Championship last month, while Kim notched his second career PGA Tour victory at the Players Championship. Stenson has not won since his breakthrough last year at Royal Troon, but he will look to follow in the footsteps of Padraig Harrington by winning a second consecutive Open at Royal Birkdale. They’ll also play at 9:48 a.m. Friday.
U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka will also be among the early wave Thursday as he makes his first start as a major champion. Koepka has not played since his triumph last month at Erin Hills, and he’ll be joined at 5:09 a.m. by world No. 2 Hideki Matsuyama and local favorite Tommy Fleetwood. Matsuyama has played just once since his runner-up finish at the U.S. Open, while Fleetwood notched his second title of the year three weeks ago at the French Open. They will start the second round at 10:10 a.m. Friday.
Rory McIlroy, the 2014 Champion Golfer of the Year, headlines the late/early wave alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel. The trio will tee off at 9:48 a.m. Thursday and 4:47 a.m. Friday, as McIlroy looks to break out of a rut after two straight missed cuts on the European Tour. Johnson was a runner-up at Royal St. George’s in 2011 and has not played since an early exit, while Schwartzel eyes his second top-10 finish in his 13th Open appearance.
Reigning Masters champ Sergio Garcia is in search of his fourth straight top-10 finish at The Open, and he’ll begin that quest at 8:04 a.m. Thursday alongside former world No. 1 Jason Day and Zach Johnson, who hoisted the Claret Jug two years ago at St. Andrews. Their second round will begin at 3:03 a.m. Friday.
Just behind them on the tee sheet will be a trio of players all ranked inside the top 20 in the world, as Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott and Paul Casey will play together at 8:26 a.m. Thursday and 3:25 a.m. Friday. Fowler enters off a run of four straight worldwide top-10 finishes, while Scott hopes to rekindle the form that led to four straight top 10s at The Open from 2012-15 and Casey attempts to emulate Stenson’s performance from last year with his 40th birthday on the horizon.
Nineteen years after his victory at Royal Birkdale and playing in the final year of his exemption as a past champion, Mark O’Meara will hit the first shot of the tournament at 1:35 a.m. Thursday. O’Meara, 60, will be joined for the first two rounds by Ryan Moore and Chris Wood. The threesome will start their second round at 6:36 a.m. Friday.