By Frank Pingue
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) – World number one Dustin Johnson will launch his bid for a maiden U.S. Masters title in the company of twice champion Bubba Watson and PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker, in groupings announced on Tuesday.
Johnson, who has won his last three starts, will tee off in the final group at 2:03 p.m. ET in Thursday’s opening round at Augusta National.
World number two Rory McIlroy, who can complete the career grand slam of golf’s four majors with a win this week, will set off with red-hot Spaniard Jon Rahm and Japan’s Hideto Tanihara at 1:41 p.m.
Australian world number three Jason Day, who took a short break from golf as his mother had surgery in her battle with lung cancer, has been paired with England’s Justin Rose and American Brandt Snedeker.
The trio will set off at 10:56 a.m., right behind gallery favorites and three-times Masters champion Phil Mickelson, Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello and South Korea’s Kim Si-woo.
Defending champion Danny Willett will tee off at 12:24 p.m. along with Matt Kuchar and Australian amateur Curtis Luck.
Former champion Spieth, who was leading in the final round last year until falling apart by dropping six shots in three holes, will set off with Germany’s Martin Kaymer and England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick.
Spaniard Sergio Garcia’s bid for his maiden major title will open with England’s Lee Westwood, who finished runner-up here last year, and Ireland’s Shane Lowry.
In other groupings, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama will set off with Rickie Fowler and Scotland’s Russell Knox while Swedish world number five Henrik Stenson was paired with twice major winner Angel Cabrera of Argentina and England’s Tyrrell Hatton.
First off at 8:00 a.m. following ceremonial tee shots by golfing greats Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player will be Americans Daniel Summerhays and Russell Henley, who secured his Masters invite by winning in Houston on Sunday.
Groupings remain the same for the second round, though the tee times change, with those who play early on Thursday going out late on Friday, and vice-versa.
(Editing by Andrew Both)