Henrik Stenson downbeat about defending Open title

Tommy Fleetwood

Tommy Fleetwood

Rory McIlroy will tee off alongside World No. 1 Dustin Johnson and 2011 US Masters champion Charl Schwarzel in the opening two rounds of the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale this week.

Stenson will be joined by former world number one Spieth and Players Championship victor Kim when he tees off on Thursday morning.

The first tee shot will be hit at 0635 local time by American Mark O'Meara, who was the victor in 1998 at Royal Birkdale.

Stenson headed straight for Royal Birkdale upon the conclusion of his round and added that, regardless of where his game is at, he plans to savour the experience of rocking up at the Southport links as defending champion.

Stenson was pessimistic about his chances despite a closing 68 in the Scottish Open on Sunday, after which he was asked if he could emulate Padraig Harrington in winning back-to-back Open titles at Birkdale.

Other notable groups see Masters champion Sergio Garcia together with Jason Day and 2015 Open victor Zach Johnson, while Jon Rahm is alongside Lee Westwood and Patrick Reed.

"I know I'm not really where I want to be in my game and maybe nothing else, either", Stenson said, "but I'll try to enjoy".

Harrington is in the group ahead of Stenson alongside American Pat Perez and Ryder Cup star Thomas Pieters, with Justin Rose, 2010 victor Louis Oosthuizen and Justin Thomas out at 9:58am.

Kim Si-woo of South Korea will go out with Stenson and Spieth, while U.S. Open victor Brooks Koepka is playing with local favorite Tommy Fleetwood and world No. 2 Hideki Matsuyama.

Australia's Ryan McCarthy, England's Laurie Canter and Colombia's Sebastian Munoz are in the final group at 4:16pm.