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British Open pairings: Former champions hold special place at Muirfield

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Brian Snyder/Reuters

(Read caption) British Open pairings: Fred Couples of the US tees off on the 15th hole during a practice round ahead of the British Open golf championship at Muirfield in Scotland Wednesday.

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The 142nd British Open golf championship gets underway Thursday at Muirfield. This will be the 16th time the Scottish course has hosted the Open Championship.

As with any golfing major, former winners hold an esteemed place of honor at the British Open. This year, no fewer than 17 former Open champions will tee it up in the first two rounds. And the R&A (formerly The Royal & Ancient Golf Club) has set up some interesting groups for the large British golf crowds to follow the first two days.

Former three-time champion Nick Faldo of Britain will be paired with American and former five-time champion Tom Watson. Former Masters champ Fred Couples rounds out the threesome that will tee off at 4 a.m. Eastern time Thursday.

Two-time defending champion Ernie Els of South Africa will play with current US Open champion Justin Rose of Britain and American Brandt Snedeker. This group will start their round at 4:11 a.m. Eastern Thursday.

Phil Mickelson, the recently-crowned Scottish Open champion, is paired with former US Open and PGA champion Rory McIlroy from Northern Ireland and Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, a threesome that will tee off at 4:44 a.m. Eastern.

While Mickelson was winning last week in Scotland, 19-year-old Jordan Spieth won his first PGA Tour event at the John Deere Classic. The Texas teenager, whose sparkling play at last year's US Open opened eyes, will play the first two rounds of his very first British Open with British amateur Matthew Fitzpatrick and Russell Healy of the US. They will tee off at 7:50 a.m. Eastern time.

Another threesome packed with star power hits the Scottish links at 9:12 a.m. Eastern. Defending Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia will go out with England's Luke Donald, No. 9 in the world this year, and American Matt Kuchar, who has won twice on the PGA Tour this season.

Last but not least, former three-time Open champion Tiger Woods will be joined by another former champion, Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, and former US Open champ Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland. This group will begin play at 9:45 a.m. Eastern time.

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The British Open is scheduled to be televised by ESPN, beginning at 4 a.m. Eastern time, Thursday through Sunday.

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