Clarke honoured to be granted...


Clarke honoured to be granted first tee shot at The Open in Portrush

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Darren Clarke will have the honour of getting the 148th Open Championship underway.

The 2011 Claret Jug-winner will hit the first tee shot at Portrush, and is partnered for the opening two rounds by recently-crowned British Amateur Champion James Sugrue and Charley Hoffman. They'll head out at 6.35am on Thursday.

Clarke says he jumped at the chance at being the man to get the first Open on Irish soil since 1951 underway, "Mr [Martin] Slumbers [R&A Chief Executive] asked me about 3-weeks ago if I would do them the honour of hitting the opening tee shot.

"It's Royal Portrush, and when the R&A ask you, it's a definite 'yes' - I said I'd love to"

Clarke says he has no qualms about the novelty of being a 'ceremonial' golfer, "That's part of it, but it's Royal Portrush - it's the first time we've been here since 1951. He asked me to do it and I happily accepted.

"Sometimes it can be a good draw teeing off here at 6.30 in the morning, so we shall see. As soon as he asked me it was always going to be a 'yes'."

While immensely proud of the honour, Clarke says he'll be focused on starting what he hopes will be a good round on the County Antrim course, "Will there be tears? No - I'll just be very proud that we have it back here in Northern Ireland."

"If you ask all the Irish guys, they'll all say the same sort of thing. It's a huge thing to have it back here in Northern Ireland again, it's going to be an amazing tournament."

All 6 of the Irish golfers in action this week will have early starts on Thursday.

Perhaps pick of the Irish groupings will see Shane Lowry partnered by Phil Mickelson, and the South African Branden Grace (7.52am).

Padraig Harrington - a winner of this tournament in 2007 and 2008 will tee off from 7.30am in the company of Matthew Fitzpatrick and Andrew Putnam.

Graeme McDowell's endured some poor form in links golf over the past fortnight, missing the cut at both the Irish and Scottish Opens. His best Open showing was a tie for 5th in 2012 at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's. McDowell has a 9.14am tee time with Henrik Stenson and Xander Shaufele.

World no.3 Rory McIlroy is the last Irish golfer out on Thursday morning, and will spend the first two rounds with Gary Woodland and Paul Casey.

Tiger Woods last lifted the Claret Jug in 2006 at Hoylake. The current Masters champion plays alongside the man who handed him the green jacket in April - Patrick Reed - and England's Matt Wallace. They're among Thursday's later starters at 3.10pm.


148th Open Championship - Thursday tee times: 

0635 D Clarke, (a) J Sugrue, C Hoffman (USA)

0646 E Grillo (Arg), Sung Kang (Kor), (a) T Thurloway

0657 A Sullivan, C Bezuidenhout (Rsa), A Levy (Fra)

0708 C Kim (USA), Z Lombard (Rsa), (a) B Wu (USA)

0719 R Sterne (Rsa), R Langasque (Fra), (a) M Schmid (Ger)

0730 P Harrington, M Fitzpatrick, A Putnam (USA)

0741 B Watson (USA), E Pepperell, R Cabrera Bello (Esp)

0752 P Mickelson (USA), S Lowry, B Grace (Rsa)

0803 A Noren (Swe), M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), S Locke

0814 W Simpson (USA), S Garcia (Esp), CT Pan (Tpe)

0825 R Palmer (USA), A Pavan (Ita), D Frittelli (Rsa)

0836 K Stanley (USA), R MacIntyre, A Johnston

0847 M Korhonen (Fin), O Wilson, (a) C Knipes

0903 I Poulter, Sunjae Im (Kor), K Aphibarnrat (Tha)

0914 H Stenson (Swe), X Schauffele (USA), G McDowell

0925 Li Haotong (Chn), R Knox, B Wiesberger (Aut)

0936 J Kokrak (USA), C Syme, A Connelly (Can)

0947 Z Johnson (USA), D Duval (USA), C Conners (Can)

0958 F Molinari (Ita), A Scott (Aus), B DeChambeau (USA)

1009 R McIlroy, P Casey, G Woodland (USA)

1020 H Matsuyama (Jpn), R Fowler (USA), Kevin Kisner (USA)

1031 J Furyk (USA), Si Woo Kim (Kor), J Walker (USA)

1042 L List (USA), A Bjork (Swe), P Waring

10:21am: Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Matt Kuchar

1053 S Imahara (Jpn), N Lashley (USA), B Hebert (Fra)

1104 M Horikawa (Jpn), C Shinkwin, G Porteous

1115 P Meesawat (Tha), M Baldwin, J Senior

1136 T Lehman (USA), J Niemann (Chl), M A Jimenez (Esp)

1147 Byeong Hun An (Kor), J Campillo (Esp), C Wood

1158 J Dahmen (USA), A Arnaus (Esp), D Papadatos (Aus)

1209 S Cink (USA), R Sabbatini (Svk), Innchoon Hwang (Kor)

1220 E Van Rooyen (Rsa), K Kitayama (USA), J McLeod (Aus)

1231 R Fox (NZ), S Norris (Rsa), Dongkyu Jang (Kor)

1242 T Hatton, K Mitchell (USA), T Pieters (Bel)

1253 T Fleetwood, J Thomas (USA), T Olesen (Den)

1304 B Koepka (USA), L Oosthuizen (Rsa), S Sharma (Ind)

1315 B Horschel (USA), J Janewattananond (Tha), A Wise (USA)

1326 J Spieth (USA), M Leishman (Aus), D Willett

1337 C Smith (Aus), A Hadwin (Can), D Lipsky (USA)

1348 P Lawrie, C Reavie (USA), J Harding (Rsa)

1404 (a) T Kanaya (Jpn), T Lewis, B Stone (Rsa)

1415 L Glover (USA), J Luiten (Ned), N Bertasio (Ita)

1426 E Els (Rsa), JB Holmes (USA), A Ancer (Mex)

1437 B Snedeker (USA), L Westwood, B Harman (USA)

1448 T Finau (USA), L Bjerregaard (Den), J Rose

1459 D Johnson (USA), J Day (Aus), K Bradley (USA)

1510 T Woods (USA), M Wallace, P Reed (USA)

1521 J Rahm (Esp), M Kuchar (USA), P Cantlay (USA)

1532 K Streelman (USA), D Redman (USA), R Rock

1543 A Otaegui (Esp), Y Ikeda (Jpn), I Benitez (Mex)

1554 P Kizzire (USA), Sang Hyun Park (Kor), Y Inamori (Jpn)

1605 Y Fujimoto (Jpn), Doyeob Mun (Kor), A Wilson

1616 G Charoenkul (Tha), Y Asaji (Jpn), A Turner

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Darren Clarke Golf Graeme McDowell James Sugrue Open Championship Phil Mickelson R&A Rory McIlroy Royal Portrush Shane Lowry The Open Tiger Woods

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