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July 15 2013

7:52 AM

Featured Groups: Open Championship

Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell have played a lot of golf together the past few years.
(Halleran/Getty Images)

TEE TIMES: Click here to view Round 1 and 2 starting times

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

EAST LOTHIAN, Scotland -- Sure, there will be plenty of people following their favorites like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson at the 2013 Open Championship this week.

With the Scottish avowed love of the game and overwhelming sense of its history, you've got to think the first- and second-round draw of Sir Nick Faldo (yes, the tee sheet has the official designation), Tom Watson and Fred Couples will attract quite a crowd, as well.

Granted, Faldo, who turns 56 on Thursday, now makes his living sitting in the booth at the 18th and commentating on the competition. But two of his three Open titles came at Muirfield in 1987 and 1992 so he shouldn't have trouble finding a comfort zone.

Watson, who is now 63, has won the Claret Jug five times, and one of those came in 1980 at Muirfield. The 53-year-old Couples never won a British Open but he made this year's field when he won the 2012 Senior British Open at Turnberry.

The threesome tees off at 4 a.m. ET (9 a.m. local time) on Thursday and 9:01 a.m. ET (2:01 p.m. local). For the record, the first group leaves the tee at 1:32 a.m. ET (6:32 a.m. local) and the last goes off at 11:13 a.m. ET (4:13 p.m. local).

Here are other groups PGATOUR.COM is watching in the first two rounds. Use the comments section below and let us know your favorites.

Bubba Watson, Nicolas Colsaerts and Dustin Johnson (2:44 a.m. ET Thursday and 8:45 a.m. ET Thursday): These are the big hitters. Colsaerts leads the TOUR with an average of 306.6 yards while Johnson is fourth at 304.9 and Watson fifth at 304.1. Keeping it out of the fescue rough will be key.

Justin Rose, Ernie Els and Brandt Snedeker (4:11 a.m. ET Thursday and 9:12 a.m. ET Friday): Els, who won the first of his two British Opens at Muirfield in 2002, will be the elder statesman in this group. The defending champion is joined by the U.S. Open champion in Rose and Snedeker, who tied for third last year at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama and Phil Mickelson (4:44 a.m. ET on Thursday and 9:45 a.m. ET on Friday): Mickelson was at his best on Sunday when he won the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open with a brilliant chip to a foot on the first playoff hole. McIlroy is looking for his first win of the season on either side of the Atlantic while Matsuyama, the 21-year-old who has already won three times on the Japan Tour is playing in his first Open.

Lee Westwood, Charl Schwartzel and Sergio Garcia (9:01 a.m. ET on Thursday and 4 a.m. ET on Friday): Westwood and Garcia would have to be placed at the top of the best-player-never-to-have-won-a-major category. Westwood has 15 top-10s, including 10 in his last 20 starts, while Garcia has 18, including a tie for eighth at Muirfield in 2002. Schwartzel made his major breakthrough in 2011 at Augusta National.

Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar and Luke Donald (9:12 a.m. ET on Thursday and 4:11 a.m. ET on Friday): Adam Scott, who squandered a four-stroke lead on the final four holes at last year's Open Championship, likely would have had a much different return to the Open Championship had he not made this year's Masters his first major title. Donald and Kuchar won't be the odds-on favorites but their ball-striking skills can't be overlooked.

Tiger Woods, Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen (9:45 a.m. ET on Thursday and 4:44 a.m. ET on Friday): Woods played a practice round at Muirfield with Jason Day and Dustin Johnson on Sunday. He says the left elbow strain is healed and he's ready to go. McDowell is fresh off a win at the Alstom Open de France, his third win in his last seven starts worldwide -- a stretch that also includes four missed cuts. Oosthuizen, who won the 2010 British Open, is currently 138th in FedExCup points.

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