April 9, 2019 / 5:54 PM / in 9 days

Golf: McIlroy to open Masters bid alongside Fowler

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland stands on the practice area during the second day of practice for the 2019 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, U.S., April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

AUGUSTA Ga. (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy will begin his latest quest to complete the career grand slam of golf’s four majors when he tees off alongside American Rickie Fowler and Australia’s Cameron Smith at the Masters starting on Thursday at Augusta National.

It will be McIlroy’s fifth attempt at the Masters to complete his collection of major titles and is perhaps his best chance yet as the Northern Irishman enters the week as the hottest player on the planet.

McIlroy’s grouping, which will be the 15th of 29 to take the course, will start their round at 11:15 a.m. ET (1515 GMT) and follow the threesome of four-times champion Tiger Woods, China’s Li Haotong and Spaniard Jon Rahm around the course.

Looking to join Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Woods as winners of the career grand slam, McIlroy enters the year’s first major in top form.

With a top-six finish in each of the six stroke play events he has played this year, including a triumph at The Players Championship three weeks ago, McIlroy is a popular pick to make amends for his final-round letdown last year.

McIlroy, whose grouping will be the last out on Friday at 2 p.m. ET behind the Woods threesome, started three shots back of eventual champion Patrick Reed entering the final round in 2018 but closed with two-over 74 to finish in a share of fifth place.

Three-times champion Phil Mickelson will play the opening two rounds alongside 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and 2017 PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas in the penultimate grouping on Thursday.

The final trio on Thursday will bring together Jordan Spieth, Paul Casey and Brooks Koepka.

World number two Dustin Johnson will play the opening two rounds with Bryson DeChambeau and Australian Jason Day while reigning champion Patrick Reed will play alongside fellow American Webb Simpson and Norwegian amateur Viktor Hovland.

Reporting by Frank Pingue

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