Rory takes an early bite of Sandwich

Rory McIlroy 2011 US Open Champion
Rory McIlroy 2011 US Open Champion
Have your say

RORY McIlroy will not have to wait long to begin his bid to become the youngest Open champion since 1893 at Sandwich on Thursday.

The US Open champion, the youngest winner of that event since Bobby Jones in 1923, will tee off in Thursday’s first round at 9.09am, alongside 2002 winner Ernie Els and American Rickie Fowler.

McIlroy will start favourite at Royal St George’s and the 22-year-old will be looking for a similar start to last year at St Andrews, where he opened with a record-equalling 63 and went on to finish third, despite a second-round 80 in bad weather.

The Northern Irishman has not played a competitive round since his stunning US Open triumph last month, but practised last week at Sandwich.

American Jerry Kelly will hit the first shot at 6.30am but may not be relishing the prospect – he took 11 shots on the first when the Open was last staged here in 2003.

Even Tiger Woods, an absentee this year, ran up a triple-bogey seven on the first, eventually finishing two shots behind shock winner Ben Curtis.

Other notable pairings see world No.1 Luke Donald, fresh from his victory in the rain-shortened Scottish Open on Sunday, out in the group immediately after McIlroy alongside Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa and Sergio Garcia.

No.2 Lee Westwood, third and second in the last two Opens, is alongside US Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and American Steve Stricker at 2.10pm, with defending champion Louis Oosthuizen in the group behind, with world No.3 Martin Kaymer and Phil Mickelson.

British amateur Tom Lewis, from the same Welwyn Garden City club which launched the career of three-time winner Sir Nick Faldo, is out at 2.32pm, with five-time champion Tom Watson and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.

Vijay Singh has withdrawn from the Open. His place has been taken by Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn, the first reserve.