on the tee

McIlroy headlines star-studded group as Irish Open draw announced

McIlroy will play alongside Hideki Matsuyama and Jon Rahm on Thursday and Friday.

RORY MCILROY WILL play alongside world number two Hideki Matsuyama and Spain’s Jon Rahm for the first two rounds of his title defence at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

pjimage (6) PA Sport PA Sport

The groupings and tee times for Thursday and Friday have been announced by the European Tour, with this year’s tournament taking place on the links at Portstewart.

McIlroy, who is once again hosting the event through his charitable foundation, tees off at 1.20pm on Thursday afternoon in a group which contains three players inside the top 15 in the world.

Matsuyama will make his first appearance at a regular European Tour event and arrives in Ireland as one of the in-form players in the world having won three times on the PGA Tour in the last 18 months.

Rahm, meanwhile, has enjoyed a meteoric rise in 2017 having jumped up to 11th in the world after finishing in a tie for 27th in the Masters.

Paul Dunne (1.10pm) is in the group ahead of McIlroy on the opening day with the Wicklow native playing alongside English duo Lee Westwood and Tyrrell Hatton while Danny Willett, Matt Fitzpatrick and Ian Poulter make up another notable group.

Brandon Stone South Africa's Brandon Stone during Tuesday's practice session at Portstewart. Presseye / Peter Morrison/INPHO Presseye / Peter Morrison/INPHO / Peter Morrison/INPHO

Shane Lowry (8.10am), Graeme McDowell (8.20am) and Pádraig Harrington (8.30am) are among the early starters on Thursday.

2008 champion Lowry has been paired with Thomas Pieters and Rafa Cabrera Bello while McDowell plays with French Open winner Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose.

In total, there are 17 Irish professionals in a quality 156-player field after Waterford’s Gary Hurley was yesterday handed a late invitation.

Full tee times available here.

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