Hoylake, England (SportsNetwork.com) - Tiger Woods has an early start Thursday at the 2014 British Open, while Phil Mickelson will begin defense of his title in the afternoon with Ernie Els and Bubba Watson alongside at Royal Liverpool.
Woods will make his second start since returning from a three-month absence because of back surgery. He missed the cut a few weeks back at the Quicken Loans National on the PGA Tour.
The 14-time major champion claimed the Claret Jug the last time the Open was played at Royal Liverpool in 2006. His start for a fourth Open championship will begin Thursday at 9:04 a.m. local time (4:04 a.m. ET) with former Masters and U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera and 2013 British Open runner-up Henrik Stenson in his group. Stenson, the current world No. 2, finished three shots behind Mickelson last year at Muirfield.
Mickelson's quest for a second straight British Open crown will start at 2:05 p.m. local time (9:05 a.m. ET), alongside a stellar group that features Els, the 2002 and 2012 Open champ, and reigning Masters winner Watson.
That trio will start two groups after reigning U.S. Open champ Martin Kaymer, Jason Day and Zach Johnson at 1:38 p.m. (8:38 a.m. ET). World No. 1 Adam Scott, 2013 PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner and 2013 U.S. Open winner Justin Rose, who just captured the Scottish Open this past weekend, will start two groups after Mickelson at 2:27 p.m. (9:27 a.m. ET).
Other featured groups include Rory McIlroy with Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama, starting at 9:26 a.m. (4:26 a.m. ET), while a trio of veterans has five-time Open champ Tom Watson with 2011 winner Darren Clarke and Jim Furyk at 8:26 a.m. (3:26 a.m. ET).
The opening tee shot will be hit by England's David Howell at 6:25 a.m. local time (1:25 a.m. ET). He'll play with 2001 British Open champ David Duval and Sweden's Robert Karlsson.