Stenson pessimistic about retaining British Open title

Tommy Fleetwood

Henrik Stenson has cast doubt on the chances of him retaining his Open Championship title at Royal Birkdale next week.

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.

"Having The Open back at Royal Birkdale is going to be really cool".

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson will play alongside Rory McIlroy in the first two rounds of the 146th British Open at Royal Birkdale, while reigning champion Henrik Stenson has been grouped with Jordan Spieth in another standout threeball.

Ireland's Padraig Harrington, who won the last Open at Birkdale in 2008, begins play at 4:36 a.m. ET along with American Pat Perez and Belgium's Thomas Pieters. There's always a chance and I'm going to enjoy the week. "You never know, it might be the only time we're defending champion at the Open Championship so I might as well enjoy it".

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"I think we're hoping for a lot in terms of what we saw this week", the 41-year-old said.

Following Stenson's group will be 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, England's Justin Rose and American Justin Thomas.

Another of the eye-catching groups for the start of the Open will see Rory McIlroy, who has missed the cut on three of his last four starts, go round with world number one Dustin Johnson and South Africa's Charl Schwartzel.

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.

That group follows England's Justin Rose - looking to better his memories of Birkdale in 1998 - who plays with 2010 Open victor Louis Oosthuizen and American Justin Thomas at 9.58am.

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