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Early Open start for fit-again Woods

US golfer Tiger Woods tees off during the second round of the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, on June 27, 2014

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US golfer Tiger Woods tees off during the second round of the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, on June 27, 2014 (AFP Photo/Jim Watson)

Hoylake (United Kingdom) (AFP) - Tiger Woods on Monday was handed an early start in Thursday's first round of the British Open at Hoylake which sees him return to the venue where he triumphed the last time it was held there in 2006.

In what will be just his second tournament since undergoing back surgery in late March, the 14-time major winner will set off at 9:04am (0804 GMT) in the company of Angel Cabrera and Henrik Stenson.

Woods, who claimed his third Claret Jug at the Royal Liverpool course eight years ago, returned to action in the Quicken Loans National at the end of June, but he missed the halfway cut at Congressional.

He has not played competitively since, but completed 12 holes in practice at the Open course Saturday and a full round on Sunday and was in optimistic mood.

"I can do whatever I want. I'm at that point now," the 38-year-old said of his recovery process.

"We didn't think we'd get to that point until this tournament or the week after.

"Before I had the procedure, I was at the point I couldn't do anything. This is how I used to feel. I had been playing with [the back injury] for a while and I had my good weeks and bad weeks. Now they are all good."

Defending champion Phil Mickelson is set for a 2:05pm (1305GMT) start in a marquee grouping with 2012 Open champion Ernie Els and current Masters champion Bubba Watson.

Two groups later England's Justin Rose, who made it back-to-back tournament wins on Sunday at the Scottish Open in Aberdeen plays with world number one Adam Scott and US PGA champion Jason Dufner.

Rose, who is up to a career-best third in the world rankings, said he felt the wins in the Scottish Open and in the Quicken Loans tournament at Congressional the previous week would not leave him feeling jaded.

"I feel that I've taken it in my stride and I feel like I haven't really taken my eye off the ball so to speak," he said on Sunday.

"Because The Open is going to come around so quickly, tonight will be relatively calm and relaxed.

"I'll obviously enjoy the moment, because as a golf pro, a two-win season is a great season so obviously any time you do win you want to soak it in and enjoy it.

"My mind will definitely be, as of tomorrow, back in the game."

US Open champion Martin Kaymer begins his bid for a second major of the year at 1:38pm (1238GMT) alongside Australian Jason Day and former Masters champion Zach Johnson.

Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, is a young guns trio along with rising stars Hideki Matsuyama of Japan and Jordan Spieth of the United States.

McIlroy closed well at Royal Aberdeen with a 67, but was left to regret a dismal second round of 78 that effectively ruined his chances of winning.

"Three good rounds here, if I can just string a fourth round in there, it would be great, and obviously going into next week, that's what I'm going to try and do, try and just play four solid rounds of golf and see where that leaves me. But I feel like I'm playing well enough to contend," he said.

England's David Howell has the honour of hitting the opening tee shot at 6:25am (0525GMT), with 2001 champion David Duval and Sweden's Robert Karlsson making up the first group.

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