Woods to tee off early at British Open

Tiger Woods gestures on the 11th hole during a practice round ahead of the British Open at Royal...

Tiger Woods gestures on the 11th hole during a practice round ahead of the British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes, England on Monday, July 16, 2012. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:43 PM ET

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, ENGLAND - The luck of the draw, given the surprising turns the weather can take at the British Open, can often go a long ways towards deciding the winner.

The draw for this year's Open, which was released Monday, has divided the potential favourites.

Tiger Woods, bidding for his first major championship since 2008, goes off in the morning when play begins Thursday. Woods will play with Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia, both looking for their first majors, at 9:42 a.m. local time (4:42 a.m. EDT).

Also in the early-late side of the draw are groups which include defending champion Darren Clarke, veteran Ernie Els and Zach Johnson, fresh off his win at the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic (9:09 a.m.); world No. 3 Lee Westwood, Yoshimori Fujimoto and 2012 Masters champ Bubba Watson (9:20 a.m.); Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell and Hiroyuki Fujita (9:31 a.m.); Ryo Ishikawa, Martin Kaymer and Tom Watson (9:53 a.m.) and Jason Dufner, Martin Laird and Kevin Na (10:15 a.m.).

The long-term weather forecast calls for Thursday to start off with a good chance of rain with the conditions improving as the day unfolds.

Teeing off in the afternoon Thursday in the late-early half of the draw will be world No. 2 Rory McIlroy, 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and 2011 PGA champ Keegan Bradley (2:21 p.m. local time, 9:21 a.m. EDT), Rickie Fowler, two-time champ Padraig Harrington and amateur Manuel Trappel at 2:32 p.m., world No. 1 Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson and Geoff Ogilvy at 2:43 p.m. and Steve Stricker with Toru Taniguchi and Anders Hansen at 2:54 p.m.

When Oosthuizen won at St. Andrews, he caught relatively tranquil conditions going late/early while those in the afternoon draw Friday -- which included McIlroy, who was buffeted on his way to an 80 -- caught a rising wind.

"Being on the right side of the draw always plays a part in the Open Championship. You get good sides, bad sides. Last year I got the good side of the draw and that obviously helped me," said Clarke. "But if you do get on the wrong side ... I had one where I was playing nicely at Muirfield a few years ago and that storm that comes in on Saturday afternoon, I was on the first tee when that storm rolled in. Then Tiger Woods, a group behind me or two ... that was a tough one. But you get good ones and bad ones. That's part of the Open Championship. As you guys know, the scoring can differ massively because of those weather conditions. But that's part and parcel of the Open Championship. Thankfully, I got a good one last year and things went my way."

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

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