The Open 2013: Rory McIlroy grouped with Phil Mickelson while Graeme McDowell is alongside favourite Tiger Woods

Groups set-up Northern Ireland v North America as favourites look set to collide at Muirfield

It’s Northern Ireland versus North America at Muirfield with Rory McIlroy grouped with Phil Mickelson and Graeme McDowell with Tiger Woods over the first two days at the Open Championship, which starts on Thursday.

McIlroy and Mickelson, winner at the Scottish Open yesterday, headline the morning starters alongside Hideki Matsuyama from Japan.

Woods and McDowell, who have seven tournament wins between them this year, are out with South Africa’s 2010 champion Louis Oosthuizen in the afternoon.

In other marque groups, US Open champion Justin Rose plays alongside defending Open champion Ernie Els and Brandt Snedeker, who led at half way last year. Ian Poulter is in the very next group alongside Keegan Bradley and Billy Horschel.

In the vintage section, Sir Nick Faldo will begin his campaign for a fourth Open crown and third here in the company of American Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson and cheerleader Fred Couples.

Among the afternoon highlights are Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Charl Schwartzel followed immediately by Luke Donald, Adam Scott and Matt Kuchar.

Book ending the opening day are Peter Senior, Lloyd Saltman and Oliver Fisher in the first group out at 6:32am, and Stephen Dartnall, Darryn Lloyd and Daisuke Maruyama, who tee off last at 4.13pm.

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