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Groups we're watching: Round 1

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Wondering who to follow as the 137th Open Championship gets under way at Royal Birkdale? Here are three groups you should definitely keep an eye on.

All times are eastern.

Justin Rose, Tom Watson, Aaron Baddeley
Tee time:
2:36 a.m.
Tee: No. 1
Total TOUR wins: 41
Why you should watch: The first two rounds of the Open Championship should prove both special and educational for Justin Rose and Aaron Baddeley, as they tee it up with five-time Open champion Tom Watson. Royal Birkdale is the place where Watson claimed his final Open in 1983. Rose comes back to Birkdale after that spirited fourth-place finish as a 17-year-old amateur in 1998. Like Rose, Baddeley has moved into the upper echelon of TOUR players and both should contend this week. While Watson's game isn't necessarily where it once was when he was a major-winning machine, there's still a lot that can be learned.

Phil Mickelson, Hideto Tanihara, Paul Casey
Tee time: 4:20 a.m.
Tee: No. 1
Total TOUR wins: 34
Why you should watch: Phil Mickelson is a pre-tournament favorite at every major -- especially this one since Tiger Woods is absent. Paul Casey is one of the great talents from Europe who could break through and win a major at any time and it wouldn't be a tremendous surprise. Lefty and Casey will be joined for the first two rounds by Japan's Hideto Tanihara. Tanihara, no doubt, is far less known than his playing partners, but has enjoyed great success on the Japan Golf Tour over the last six years where he has racked up seven wins. Tanihara's best finish in the five majors he's played was a tie for fifth at the 2006 Open. Even still, it's expected that all eyes will be on Mickelson in this threesome.

Sergio Garcia, Ryuji Imada, Sean O'Hair
Tee time:
9:31 a.m.
Tee: No. 1
Total TOUR wins: 10
Why you should watch: Will this be the week that Sergio Garcia finally brushes away the label of "best-player-never-to-win-a-major?" He has an incredible record at the Open Championship, but hasn't been able to hoist the Claret Jug just yet. It was practically in his hands in 2007, but Padraig Harrington ripped it from his grasp. Ryuji Imada and Sean O'Hair haven't had the major success of Garcia, but both are fine players with wins on TOUR in 2008.


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