CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — Jordan Spieth returned the Claret Jug on Monday. His bid to regain golf’s oldest title will begin at 4:58 a.m. ET on Thursday. Spieth will play alongside Justin Rose and Kiradech Aphibarnrat in one of the star-studded groups at Carnoustie.
The northern-most course in The Open’s rota also is the most difficult. “Car-Nasty” rewards the game’s best players, though. Five of the seven winners here on the coast of the North Sea are in the World Golf Hall of Fame, and another Carnoustie champion, Padraig Harrington, seems a sure-fire inductee.
Here’s a closer look at some of the other groups that will draw the lion’s share of the eyeballs here in Scotland. (Note: FedExCup ranking in parentheses; all times Eastern; all groups start on No. 1).
Phil Mickelson (8), Satoshi Kodaira (70), Rafa Cabrera Bello (64): Mickelson won this season’s World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, his first win since hoisting the Claret Jug in 2013. Kodaira earned his first PGA TOUR victory at this year’s RBC heritage, while Cabrera Bello has three top-10s this season.
Tee times: 3:03 a.m. on Thursday; 8:04 a.m. on Friday.
Si Woo Kim (41), Webb Simpson (11), Nicola Hojgaard (NR): The past two PLAYERS champions are paired for the first two rounds at Carnoustie. Simpson won this year’s PLAYERS by four shots. It was his first victory since the 2013 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. They’re playing alongside Danish amateur Nicola Hojgaard.
Tee time: 3:25 a.m. on Thursday; 8:26 a.m. on Friday.
Justin Rose (4), Jordan Spieth (40), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (NR): Rose won earlier this season at another course dubbed Hogan’s Alley. He displayed impressive iron play in winning the Fort Worth Invitational at Colonial. He also won this season’s World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions. Spieth will try to solve his putting woes at the event of his most recent PGA TOUR victory. Aphibarnrat recently accepted Special Temporary Membership on the PGA TOUR after finishing T5 in two World Golf Championships (Mexico Championship, Dell Technologies Match Play).
Tee times: 4:58 a.m. on Thursday; 9:59 a.m. on Friday.
Jon Rahm (14), Rickie Fowler (16), Chris Wood (NR): This group features two of the top 20 players in the FedExCup, and two players hungry for their first major. Rahm won this season’s CareerBuilder Challenge. Fowler, the 2015 PLAYERS champion, has two runners-up this season (OHL Classic at Mayakoba, Masters). England’s Wood has two top-5 finishes at The Open.
Tee times: 5:09 a.m. on Thursday; 10:10 a.m. on Friday.
Louis Oosthuizen (75), Paul Casey (12), Patrick Reed (7): Reed rides a string of three consecutive top-four finishes in majors into The Open Championship. He finished second at last year’s PGA before winning the Masters and finishing fourth at the U.S. Open. Casey won this season’s Valspar Championship for his second PGA TOUR victory. Oosthuizen won the 2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews and lost in a playoff to Zach Johnson when The Open returned there in 2015.
Tee times: 5:20 a.m. on Thursday; 10:21 a.m. on Friday.
Henrik Stenson (43), Tommy Fleetwood (32), Jimmy Walker (53): In 2016, Stenson added The Open Championship to a sterling resume that already included THE PLAYERS Championship and FedExCup. Fleetwood is coming off a runner-up at Shinnecock Hills that included a final-round 63, while Walker was runner-up at this year’s THE PLAYERS.
Tee times: 7:31 a.m. on Thursday; 2:30 a.m. on Friday.
Rory McIlroy (39), Marc Leishman (20), Thorbjorn Olesen (NR): McIlroy returns to a course where he won the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He was in third place after shooting 68 in the first round of the 2007 Open before finishing 42nd. McIlroy won The Open in 2014 and added the FedExCup two years later. He and Leishman represent the past two champions of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, as well. Leishman was part of the three-man playoff won by Zach Johnson in the 2015 Open at St. Andrews. Olesen is coming off a recent victory at the Italian Open.
Tee time: 7:53 a.m. on Thursday; 2:52 a.m. on Friday.
Dustin Johnson (1), Alex Noren (31), Charley Hoffman (102): The FedExCup leader is playing with a Presidents Cup teammate and a potential Ryder Cup foe. Johnson has won twice this season, an eight-shot victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and six-shot win at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. He is coming off the disappointment of losing a four-shot lead at the halfway point of the U.S. Open, though. Noren is playing his first season as a PGA TOUR member. He was a runner-up in a playoff to Jason Day at the Farmers Insurance Open. He recently won the French Open.
Tee times: 8:04 a.m. on Thursday; 3:03 a.m. on Friday.
Justin Thomas (2), Francesco Molinari (27), Branden Grace (74): The reigning FedExCup champion is playing alongside one of the game’s hottest players and the man who shot a record-setting round last year at Royal Birkdale. Thomas is second in this season’s FedExCup standings thanks to wins at the CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES and The Honda Classic. Molinari has two wins and two runners-up in his past five starts, with a T25 at Shinnecock Hills sandwiched in between. He picked up his first PGA TOUR win at the Quicken Loans National before finishing second in last week’s John Deere Classic. Grace shot 62 in last year’s Open Championship, the lowest round in major championship history.
Tee times: 8:26 a.m. on Thursday; 3:25 a.m. on Friday.
Sergio Garcia (128), Bryson DeChambeau (6), Shubankar Sharma (NR): Garcia returns to the site of one of several heartbreaking finishes that preceded his win in last year’s Masters. He missed a 10-foot par putt on the final hole here in 2007 before losing a playoff to Harrington. Garcia needs some good results to avoid missing the FedExCup Playoffs for the first time. DeChambeau, who’s in the middle of a breakout season that includes a victory at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, withdrew from his title defense at last week’s John Deere Classic because of a shoulder injury. Sharma turned heads after holding the 54-hole lead at this year’s World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship.
Tee times: 10:10 a.m. on Thursday; 5:09 a.m. on Friday.
Ian Poulter (34), Cameron Smith (44), Brooks Koepka (13): Koepka, the first back-to-back U.S. Open champion in nearly three decades, will try to claim a different Open. He’s joined by England’s Poulter, who won this season’s Houston Open. Cameron Smith won last season’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans with Jonas Blixt.
Tee times: 9:59 a.m. on Thursday; 4:58 a.m. on Friday.
Tiger Woods (50), Hideki Matsuyama (81), Russell Knox (73): The local favorite will play alongside the 14-time major champion. Russell Knox, fresh off a victory at the Irish Open and runner-up at the French Open, is looking to become the first Scot to win The Open since Paul Lawrie won at Carnoustie in 1999. Knox’s Irish Open victory was his first since his dramatic win at the Travelers Championship in 2016. Carnoustie is the closest Open venue to his hometown of Inverness, which is three hours away. Woods, a three-time Open champion, has finished T7 and T12 in two Opens at Carnoustie, a course he has competed on since playing the Scottish Open as an amateur. Matsuyama, who has won five times over the previous four seasons, is in the midst of his first winless season since 2015. He won three times last season to finish eighth in the FedExCup.
Tee times: 10:21 a.m. on Thursday; 5:20 a.m. Eastern on Friday.
SOURCE: PGA Tour