Five opening-round groupings to watch at the British Open

Jonathan Wall
Devil Ball Golf

The groupings for the first two rounds of the British Open are set. With so many notable names playing together, we figured it made sense to highlight five groupings you should keep an eye on this week. There's a good chance a couple of these guys could be in contention for the Claret Jug come Sunday afternoon. (To see all of the groupings, click here.)

Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose (Thursday, 4:42 a.m. EST / Friday, 9:43 a.m.) — You know a grouping is a big deal when the network covering the tournament (ESPN) moves the coverage window back 30 minutes to allow fans to see the round in its entirety. Despite the fact that he has three wins this year, the pressure is on Woods to win his first major in four year. He finished T-25 the last time the British Open was at Royal Lytham, but then again, a lot has changed for Woods in the last 10-plus years. Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose remain two of the best golfers to have never won a major. Now in their thirties, the pressure is mounting for both guys to add a major title to their resume in the next few years. Garcia finished T-9 at Lytham in 2001, so he does have a little history at the course.

Lee Westwood, Yoshinori Fujimoto and Bubba Watson (Thursday, 4:20 a.m. / Friday, 9:21 a.m.) — With all due respect to Yoshinori Fujimoto (who's just 22), this grouping is all about Bubba Watson and Lee Westwood. For Watson, the goal this week is to build on a T-30 last year's British Open, which was his best finish to date at the major. Westwood, on the other hand, has the weight of an entire country on his shoulders this week. With two top-3 finishes in his last three British Open starts, this could his best chance yet to finally win a major and silence the critics.

Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson and Geoff Ogilvy (Thursday, 9:43 a.m. / Friday, 4:31 a.m.) — It's rare that Phil Mickelson isn't the headliner, but for at least one week, the spotlight is on Luke Donald, who comes into the British Open as the top-ranked golfer in the world for the second straight year. He's hoping the second time around is a little more memorable than the first, after Donald missed the cut last year at Royal St Georges. He's struggled to find his game at the majors, but if there's one course that suits his consistency off the tee, it's Royal Lytham. Nobody's quite sure which Phil Mickelson is going to show up this week. If it's the one that went 15-under over two days at the Scottish Open, then he could be a contender. But if it's the one that posted eights straight rounds over par, he could be going home early. Ogilvy is a past major winner, but he comes to the British Open as a bit of a darkhorse. He missed the cut at Lytham in 2001, but he has a ton of respect for the course. Don't count out the Aussie this week.

Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell and Hiroyuki Fujita (Thursday, 4:31 a.m. / Friday, 9:32 a.m.) — Don't be surprised if one of the guys from this grouping is in contention on the weekend. Johnson may be known for his length off the tee, but he showed us last year that he has the game to contend at the British Open. If it wasn't for a shanked approach on the 14th hole during the final round, we could be talking about him defending his title this week McDowell grew up playing links style courses in Northern Ireland and has the perfect ball flight to win this week, but his lack of success at the British Open makes you wonder if the pressure to win Claret Jug is getting to him. Fujita is making his third British Open appearance but hasn't made the cut since 2005.

Rory McIlroy, Louis Oosthuizen and Keegan Bradley (Thursday, 9:21 a.m. / 4:09 a.m.) — These three major champions have a lot to prove this week. With the exception of Oosthuizen, who took Bubba Watson to playoff earlier this year at the Masters, the group has failed to contend at the majors since their big wins. McIlroy's best finish since his U.S. Open win was a T-25 at last year's British Open, while Bradley failed to finish inside the top-25 at the Masters and U.S. Open. All three guys are incredibly talented, but if there's one thing they needs to do this week, it's step up and contend once again on the big stage.