SANDWICH, England -- It's not hard to figure where a lot of interest will be at Royal St. George's in the first round of the 140th British Open Thursday. Runaway U.S. Open winner Rory McIlroy tees off at 9:09 a.m. Thursday with Ernie Els and Rickie Fowler. Scottish Open winner Luke Donald, Ryo Ishikawa and Sergio Garcia are in the next group at 9:20 a.m.
Thursday afternoon there are also two marquee pairings back to back. Lee Westwood, Steve Stricker and Charl Schwartzel tee off at 2:10 p.m., with 2011 Open champ Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer and and Phil Mickelson in the next group at 2:21 p.m. It doesn't look as if early-late or late-early times Thursday-Friday will bring a huge advantage, according to the current long-range weather forecast. Both days look dry with a high of 68, with the breeze picking up in the afternoon both days, perhaps more windy on Friday. Saturday looks like the day with the best chance of rain, with Sunday being "mostly dry and bright."
Jerry Kelly, Nathan Green and Danny Willett get things started Thursday morning at 6:30. Ben Curtis, who won the Open in 2003 the last time it was at Royal St. George's, tees off Thursday at 8:58 a.m. With Paul Casey and Aaron Baddeley. Five-time Open champion Tom Watson goes off at 2:32 Thursday afternoon with Henrik Stenson and amateur Tom Lewis.
--* Bill Fields