Els won the British Open last year in Lytham St. Annes, England. He also claimed the 2002 British Open, the last time it was contested at the Muirfield Golf Links.
The tournament starts Thursday at Muirfield in Gullane, Scotland.
Els is in a group with U.S. Open champion winner Justin Rose and 2012 FedEx Cup winner Brandt Snedeker. They are to begin at 4:11 a.m. EDT (9:11 a.m. British Time) Thursday. They have a second-round start of 9:12 a.m. EDT Friday.
No. 1-ranked Tiger Woods, in a group with Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen, is scheduled for a 9:45 a.m. EDT start Thursday with his second round set for 4:44 a.m. Friday. Woods has won the British Open three times, most recently in 2006.
World No. 2 Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson, who just moved to No. 5 in the rankings after winning the Scottish Open, are to start their tournament at 4:44 a.m. Thursday with a second round call for 9:45 a.m. Friday. Rising Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama is the third member of the group.
The 142nd Open Championship starts at 1:32 a.m. EDT Thursday with Peter Senior, Lloyd Saltman and Oliver Fisher in the opening group.
One of the featured groups is to get started at 4 a.m. Thursday. Nick Faldo, who won two of his three British Open titles at Muirfield, five-time British Open champion Tom Watson and defending Senior British Open champion Fred Couples comprise that group.