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Legends tackle Royal Birkdale

(Photo: Phil Inglis)
Fred Couples will begin his defence of The Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex on Thursday alongside debutant Colin Montgomerie and American Mark O'Meara, who returns to Royal Birkdale Golf Club 15 years after his Open Championship triumph.

The trio will tee off at 13.50, with Europe's victorious 2010 Ryder Cup Captain Montgomerie hoping to make an immediate impact after celebrating his 50th birthday on June 23.

The Scot will be looking to follow in the spike-marks of former World Number One Couples, who captured the prestigious title on his first attempt at Turnberry last year to add to the Masters Tournament he won in 1992.

Couples and O'Meara both made the cut in last week's Open Championship at Muirfield, and for O'Meara, this week offers the chance to return to the scene of one of his greatest triumphs.

Just three months after winning the Masters Tournament in 1998, O'Meara lifted the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale, defeating compatriot Brian Watts in a play-off.

The 56 year old also won the Lawrence Batley International at Royal Birkdale in 1987 to claim his first European Tour title, and shared third place with Couples in The 1991 Open Championship at this week's host venue, finishing three shots back from winner Ian Baker-Finch and one behind runner-up Mike Harwood.

Another former winner of The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, Tom Watson, will also be able to draw upon some fond memories.

The 2014 United States Ryder Cup Captain won the last of his five Claret Jugs at Royal Birkdale in 1983, and 30 years on he is bidding for a unique feat of winning a third Senior Open title on a course where he also won an Open Championship, following previous "˜doubles' at Turnberry and Muirfield.

Watson begins his campaign at 09.20 alongside 1989 Open Champion Mark Calcavecchia and South African David Frost.

Bernhard Langer, the 2010 Senior Open Champion, tees off ten minutes later at 09.30 alongside two-time Major Champion Sandy Lyle and 2010 US Ryder Cup Captain Corey Pavin.

Meanwhile, Paul Wesselingh starts as the man in form on the European Senior Tour, with two victories already in 2013, and he also has the luxury of being able to draw on some local knowledge.

The Senior Tour Order of Merit leader was born in Liverpool, less than 20 miles from host venue Royal Birkdale, and played the numerous links courses on the Merseyside coast as a youngster learning the game.

Wesselingh has adapted seamlessly to life on the Senior Tour, winning the 2012 Rookie of the Year award before his two victories this season: a successful defence of his ISPS Handa PGA Seniors Championship followed by a play-off victory over Kevin Spurgeon in the Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open.

Australasians in this week's field are Peter Senior, Steve Elkington, Peter Fowler,Terry Price and Greg Turner,

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