Tiger Woods
Despite having not won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open, Tiger Woods is considered favorite for the 2012 Open. Reuters

When and where: Coverage of the first day's play at the Open championship gets underway at Royal Lytham & St Annes at 4.30 a.m. ET on ESPN. A live stream will be available on ESPN3 from 4 a.m.

Selected Tee Times (ET):

4.09 a.m. Darren Clarke begins the defense of his title alongside Ernie Else and Zach Johnson

4.20 a.m. Lee Westwood tees-off with Masters champion Bubba Watson and Yoshinori Fujimoto

4.42 a.m. Tiger Woods gets underway alongside Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose

9.21 a.m. Rory McIlroy begins his Open Championship with 2010 champion Louis Oosthuizen and Keegan Bradley

9.43 a.m. World No.1 Luke Donald tees-off with Phil Mickelson and Geoff Ogilvy

Preview: One of the highlights of the golfing calendar takes place on Thursday as the 141st Open Championship gets underway at the historic Royal Lytham & St Annes course.

World number one Luke Donald and his third-ranked compatriot Lee Westwood will be looking to end an English drought in the Open that stretches back to Nick Faldo's victory in 1992. As always, though, the much of the attention will be focused on former world No.1 Tiger Woods.

The 14-time major champion is looking to end his own personal drought having not won a major for over four years. By almost any other golfer's standards, Woods is having a terrific year. But, despite winning three times on tour, questions will remain about the 36-year-old's comeback from both personal and physical injury until he produces the goods once more on the big occasion. Claiming his fourth Claret Jug would take Woods back to the world No.1 spot and leave no-one in doubt that he was once again the best golfer on the planet.

As he continues his work with coach Sean Foley, Woods believes he is firmly on the right track.

I'm just trying to get better every day, he said, according to The Open website. I like the things that Sean and I have been doing. They are starting to solidify.

There are plenty of questions too regarding another of the game's most high-profile competitors, Rory McIlroy. Although still ranked at number two, the Northern Irishman has endured a disappointing few months, missing the cut at four events including the U.S. Open.

After the frenzy surrounding the 23-year-old coming into the Open following his stunning victory at last year's U.S. Open, McIlroy is eager to just focus on his game this time around.

Last year it was complete mayhem so this week it has been lovely just to be able to go about my business and prepare the way I wanted to, he said, according to the Open website.

I have tried to keep it as low key as possible. I wanted to go about my business as quietly as possible and I felt that I have done that pretty well.

As much as the 156 players will be competing against each other, their toughest challenge could come from the weather. A torrid British summer has left the Royal Lytham course sodden. The bunkers have been particularly effected, while the long, thick rough promises to be an unenviable prospect for anyone unfortunate enough to miss the fairway. Given the prospect of strong and variable winds, tee-off times on the first two days could also have a major impact on the final outcome.