Els feeling good about his Open defence as champion prepares to play alongside Rose

REIGNING Open champion Ernie Els believes he has what it takes to mount a defence of the claret jug when play commences at Muirfield on Thursday.

Els has been paired with US Open champion Justin Rose and America’s Brandt Snedeker for the opening two rounds.

And the 43-year-old is confident he can challenge for the fifth Major of his career.

“I really can’t wait for Thursday, I have a good feel about it,” he said.

“Since my first practice round two weeks ago it’s amazing how the course has changed. The course is getting firmer and faster, and accuracy will be at a premium.”

Three-time winner Tiger Woods has overcome an elbow injury and is set to play alongside Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and 2010 champion Louis Oosthuizen.

World No2 Rory McIlroy plays with American Phil Mickelson and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama.