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.”

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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