Shane Lowry to begin long-awaited Open defence alongside US Open winner Jon Rahm
Shane Lowry’s long wait to get the defence of his Open title under way will see him go out in the marquee group alongside golf’s newest major winner Jon Rahm and former champion Louis Oosthuizen at Royal St George’s on Thursday.
The Irishman won at Royal Portrush in 2019 but last year’s postponement due to Covid-19 restrictions mean Lowry will be in the 726th day of his reign as the holder of the Claret Jug when he tees off.
As befitting the defending champion, he will have for company world number two Rahm, who made his major breakthrough at last month’s US Open, and Oosthuizen – a winner in 2010 at St Andrews.
The honour of hitting the first tee shot will go to the veteran Richard Bland, who became the oldest first-time winner of a European Tour event with victory at the Betfred British Masters on his 478th start.
He tees off at 6.35am with fellow Englishmen Andy Sullivan and Marcus Armitage, another maiden winner in June with his victory at the Porsche European Open.
“Truly an honour that I’ve been given the opening tee shot @TheOpen something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Bland wrote on Twitter.
Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, the 2014 winner, goes out at 3.21pm with American Ryder Cup rival Patrick Reed and Australian Cameron Smith.
Crowd favourite Phil Mickelson, the reigning US PGA champion and 2013 Claret Jug winner, is off just before at 2.48pm with fellow American Kevin Kisner and England’s Tyrell Hatton.
Jordan Spieth, who won the Open in 2017, is in the 9.25am group with big-hitting compatriot and last year’s US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and South Africa’s Branden Grace.
The last group out, at 4.16pm, includes debutant Nick Poppleton, the Rotherham golfer who came through qualifying at West Lancashire.