Shane Lowry paired with Major pair Spieth and Rose

Five of the six Irish players in the field have been handed early-late starts on Thursday and Friday

Shane Lowry

– after his close call in the US Open, where he led into the final round only to be usurped by

Dustin Johnson

has been paired with Major champions Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose for the first round of the British Open.

Indeed, five of the six Irish players in the field have been handed early-late starts on Thursday and Friday: Darren Clarke tees off at 7.41am in the first round, with Pádraig Harrington (8.25am), Paul Dunne (8.36am), Lowry (9.03am) and Rory McIlroy (9.36) all getting their first rounds under way with morning starts. Only Graeme McDowell, who tees off at 1.15pm on Thursday, has a late-early draw.

Europe's Ryder Cup captain Clarke, champion at Sandwich in 2011, has been grouped with Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen and American Jim Furyk.

Although Clarke's primary focus these days is on the Ryder Cup, an old affinity with the Troon links – he was runner-up behind Justin Leonard in 1997 and finished 11th behind Todd Hamilton in 2004 – has brought with it renewed hope.

“I’m thinking about it all the time . . . the competitor in me still hates going out and playing awful. If there’s a type of golf course I can compete on, it would be links,” said Clarke, who has been working on “trying not to get ahead of my body”.

He explained: “I’ve been moving my spine angle forward and I’ve had to move back and collect myself, that’s why I’ve been struggling for a while. Now I’m back on links it’s about keeping my Adam’s Apple in position so I can get my ball trajectory going.

Proper course

“Troon is one of the fairer Open courses. There’s not massive undulations, it’s a proper course.”

Harrington has been grouped with Louis Oosthuizen and Jamie Donaldson for the opening two rounds, and Dunne, who shared the lead going into the final round at St Andrews last year, has two Americans – Scott Piercy and Jamie Lovemark – for company.

McIlroy, winner at Hoylake two years ago, will join h Japan's Hideki Matsuyama and American Bubba Watson, while McDowell lines up with Matt Kuchar and Andrew Johnston.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times

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