McIlroy paired with 40/1 Casey and Woodland

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The 9/1 favourite Rory McIlroy will have Ryder Cup team-mate Paul Casey (pictured) and US Open champion Gary Woodland for company during the first two rounds of the Open Championship (Casey 40/1, Woodland 45/1 – Outright Betting).

Northern Irishman McIlroy is sure to be cheered on by a vociferous home crowd at Royal Portrush and tees off at 10:09 for his first round on Thursday.

Darren Clarke, the Open champion in 2011, will hit the first ball of the tournament after being placed in the 06:35 group alongside amateur James Sugrue and American Charlie Hoffman (Clarke 33/1 – Top Irish Player).

Clarke admits he did not have to think twice about accepting the role when asked by R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers three weeks ago if he wanted the honour.

“It’s Royal Portrush, it’s the first time it has been here for 68 years and I gladly accepted,” he said. “Sometimes it can also be a good draw teeing off so early. It’s a huge thing to have it back here and it’s going to be an amazing tournament.”

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Defending champion Francesco Molinari has been paired with Australia’s Adam Scott and US ace Bryson DeChambeau, with the trio teeing off at 09:58 for their first round, while world number one Brooks Koepka will start at 13:04 together with South African Louis Oosthuizen and 22-year-old Indian Shubhankar Sharma (Koepka 12/5 – Top-5 Finish).

As ever, all eyes will be on Tiger Woods as the three-time champion looks to add to his 15 majors, with the world number five set to start at 15:10 on Thursday alongside England’s Matt Wallace and fellow American Patrick Reed (Woods, 18/1, Wallace 40/1, Reed 80/1 – Outright Betting).

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