KSN are proud to support:

Royal St George’s ready for The Open
Royal St George’s ready for The Open

A total of 156 players are set to tee off for the first round of The 149th Open Championship at Royal St George’s on Thursday with the winner anyone’s guess.

The world’s best golfers have descended on East Kent in the past few days as they prepare for one of the biggest tournaments of the year.

After an extra twelve months of waiting, the tournament will finally tee off at 6:35am on Thursday with around 32,000 fans expected to be in attendance on each of the four days.

With the weather set fair for the four days of The Open, the winner will be the one that deals with the conditions the best at the coastal course.

A breeze is expected on Thursday, making the links course a challenge for all.

Rory McIlroy feels that missing the cut in Scotland last week could benefit his chances of winning The 149th Open, and his belief is backed up statistically.

McIlroy made an early exit at The Renaissance Club having added the tournament to his schedule at late notice, but that gave him the chance to head straight to Royal St George’s to get in an extra couple of days practice for the final major of the year.

The 32-year-old has welcomed the opportunity to spread his practice out over five days rather than “cram all the preparation in” as he looks to add to his trend of winning a tournament in his first start after missing a halfway cut.

“You never want to miss a cut, as you say, but as missed cuts go, this wasn’t necessarily a bad one,” said the 2014 Open champion, who remains without a major title for almost seven years.

“I wasn’t planning on playing the Scottish Open a few weeks ago anyway, so it was good to get a couple of competitive rounds in and just learn a little bit more and figure out what I need to do.”

“It would have been great to stay and play an extra couple days in Scotland, but to be down here and get a few holes in on Saturday and play a full round on Sunday, it felt like I got a bit of a head start on the rest of the field, which feels good.”

“It meant I didn’t even play any holes yesterday. I played 11 today. I’m probably going to go out early tomorrow and play 18. But it just meant that I can take it a bit easier the next couple days, not feel like I’m trying to cram all the preparation in.”

McIlroy is aware that, of the last nine occasions he has missed a cut, he has won in his next start three times and he insisted this was not a “chance statistic” as he makes learning from his mistakes a priority in his career.

“I think in golf you always learn more about your game when you’ve missed a cut or struggled or not played as well,” he added. “I think anyone can play well, anyone can hit the ball great and give themselves chances to win, but I’ve always learned more from disappointments and from not doing as well.”

“I’ve always tried to learn. I’ve always tried to figure out, ‘okay, why did this week not go so well’, and then you give yourself a couple of thoughts and they’re fresh in your mind going into the next week.”

“That’s why I say, in golf, there’s always next week, and that’s a great thing, because you can right some wrongs pretty quickly. I’ve been able to do that in the past.”

“I missed the cut at The Memorial a couple of years ago, and I won the Canadian Open the next week. I missed the cut at the Masters and then my next start was Quail Hollow and I won there.”

“Golf always just gives you another opportunity to go out and play well and to see if you’ve learned from your mistakes, and I’ve always made it a priority in my career to really try to learn from my mistakes, all the way back to what happened at Augusta in 2011 and going and winning the US Open at the next major.

“I had a few things fresh in my mind for a couple of months there, and I made sure if I ever got myself in a position like that again, I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes.”

McIlroy feels confident he has learned from his mistakes at the Scottish Open and revealed his unscheduled practice time in Sandwich had produced positive results.

“I feel good, I’ve hit the ball really good in practice the last few days,” he said. “I feel like I figured something out on Sunday here, which has been really good. I hit the ball great on the range yesterday, and I hit the ball well today on the course.

“It’s hard. You’re thinking about a swing so much, and it’s really about trying to get that blend of getting your mechanics right but then also letting your athletic ability and your instincts shine through, as well. It’s just been trying to get that balance.

“But I feel like I figured something out on Sunday, and I feel good with it. I feel good about where I am going into the week.”

Groups and starting times for Thursday’s first round of The 149th Open Championship at Royal St George’s in Sandwich.

All times BST – Gbr and Irl unless stated – (x) denotes amateur

0635 R Bland, A Sullivan, M Armitage

0646 Chan Kim (USA), J Harding (Rsa), Haotong Li (Chn)

0657 M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), G Fernandez-Castano (Esp), x-A Gallegos (Arg)

0708 A Noren (Swe), JC Ritchie (Rsa), R Mansell

0719 D Burmester (Rsa), D Willett, x-L Shepherd

0730 C Bezuidenhout (Rsa), S Horsfield, Min Woo Lee (Aus)

0741 V Hovland (Nor), R Palmer (USA), T Detry (Bel)

0752 P Casey, A Ancer (Mex), I Poulter

0803 B Koepka (USA), J Kokrak (USA), G Higgo (Rsa)

0814 D Berger (USA), J Niemann (Chl), J Dahmen (USA)

0825 D Clarke, B Wiesberger (Aut), x-J Long

0836 C Kirk (USA), M Kinhult (Swe), J Senior

0847 T Gooch (USA), CT Pan (Tpe), J Thomson

0903 E Els (Rsa), G Woodland (USA), x-C Hammer (USA)

0914 S Burns (USA, L Herbert (Aus), J Campillo (Esp)

0925 J Spieth (USA), B DeChambeau (USA), B Grace (Rsa)

0936 B Harman (USA), M Hughes (Can), D Frittelli (Rsa)

0947 V Perez (Fra), K Streelman (USA), G Migliozzi (Ita)

0958 S Lowry, J Rahm (Esp), L Oosthuizen (Rsa)

1009 S Cink (USA), L Westwood, M Kaymer (Ger)

1020 D Johnson (USA), W Zalatoris (USA), J Rose

1031 S Scheffler (USA), S Garcia (Esp), x-Yuxin Lin (Chn)

1042 H English (USA), E Van Rooyen (Rsa), C Reavie (USA)

1053 L Glover (USA), Byeong Hun An (Kor), B Snedeker (USA)

1104 C Tringale (USA), T Kanaya (Jpn), M Schneider (Ger)

1115 L Griffin (USA), R Hoshino (Jpn), C Worsdall

1136 A Rai, P Waring, D Croft

1147 D van Tonder (Rsa), J Janewattananond (Tha), x-C Bring (Den)

1158 H Varner III (USA), B Steele (USA), x-M Schmid (Ger)

1209 T Merritt (USA), A Long (USA), J Ahlers (Rsa)

1220 J Day (Aus), J Luiten (Ned), J Veerman (USA)

1231 J Catlin (USA), R Langasque (Fra), A Pike (Aus)

1242 P Harrington, B Kennedy (Aus), S Forgan

1253 T Finau (USA), B Horschel (USA), A Hadwin (Can)

1304 P Cantlay (USA, M Fitzpatrick, R Fox (Nzl)

1315 F Molinari (Ita), M Leishman (Aus), M Wallace

1326 C Morikawa (USA), C Conners (Can), S Munoz (Col)

1337 J Scrivener (Aus), K Mitchell (USA), x-S Bairstow

1348 C Hoffman (USA), E Grillo (Arg), B Hebert (Fra)

1404 K Bradley (USA), R T Lee (Can), R Cabrera Bello (Esp)

1415 C Ortiz (Mex), B Todd (USA), M Schwab (Aut)

1426 W Simpson (USA), R Henley (USA), S Norris (Rsa)

1437 M Jones (Aus), D Hillier (Nzl), M Siem (Ger)

1448 P Mickelson (USA), T Hatton, K Kisner (USA)

1459 X Schauffele (USA), R MacIntyre, R Fowler (USA)

1510 J Thomas (USA), T Fleetwood, A Scott (Aus)

1521 R McIlroy, P Reed (USA), C Smith (Aus)

1532 H Stenson (Swe), M Homa (USA), M Kuchar (USA)

1543 A Rozner (Fra), R Kinoshita (Jpn), B Hutchinson

1554 K Kitayama (USA), D Lawson (Aus), P Saksansin (Tha)

1605 Y Inamori (Jpn), J Walker (USA), R Celia (Col)

1616 R Karlberg (Swe), R Nagano (Jpn), N Poppleton