The Open 2013: Only the truly kingly need apply for the crown in East Lothian

It will take a champion of champions to join the list of greats at one of the great courses

Muirfield

Muirfield is golf’s kingmaker. Only the game’s royalty hold their coronations here. There will be no fluke winner come Sunday. No Todd Hamiltons or Ben Curtises. The last seven champions here are names on whose heads a crown sits well: Ernie Els, Sir Nick Faldo (twice), Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. “Look at the list of past champions, the number of Hall of Famers who have won here,” said Tiger Woods, perhaps the greatest Hall of Famer of them all.

Wild and muscle-bound smash-and-grab bombers will not overpower and bully Muirfield. The straight-up-and-down, paint-it-by-numbers hitters used to racking up millions of dollars on US Tour dartboard courses will get cricked necks from staring backwards as their high looping shots are hurled back over their heads. Ball strikers and classic artists who can keep their patience will win the day. Think Woods, Els, Luke Donald, the US Open champion Justin Rose and Masters champion Adam Scott. Names with games that would belong comfortably among Muirfield’s list of stellar champions.

There are 7,192 yards to navigate squeezed in between deep rough that looks like Russell Crowe’s Elysian Fields. Golfers should take note of the advice the general gave to his army: “If you find yourself alone, riding in green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled; for you are in Elysium, and you’re already dead.”

This Home to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh (No Girls Allowed) Golfers is on every Top 10 list of the world’s greatest courses and is regarded as the premier Open venue. Celebrated course architect Harry Colt tweaked Old Tom Morris’s design in 1922, giving it an ingenious rerouting which now means a clockwise front nine wraps around an anti-clockwise back nine. All of which means the wind comes at the players from every which way but loose, ensuring that by the time they reach the 18th green swings have been tossed inside out like shirts on a washing line.

Woods said the injury to his elbow is fine and there is further good news for the world No 1 in that the weather is forecast not to batter him with the perfect storm of 2002 that reduced him to crawling home with an 81 in the third round. The glorious British heatwave is baking Muirfield. The fairways are already biscuit brown and rock-cake hard, meaning balls are running along them as if the players are driving shots along the runway at Edinburgh Airport. Except there will not be many drivers released from their head covers. Long irons are back in fashion, like Hoylake in 2006, when the country was again melting in weather to bring back memories of those seemingly endless summers of the 1970s.

Woods won that week. He, of course, is favourite this week. “I only hit one driver that week,” he said. “And so far here, in three days, I’ve only hit a couple of drivers. Jason [Day] was playing with me the other day and he hadn’t hit a driver yet. A lot of irons off the tee: four-iron going 280 yards, three-iron is going 300 yards. It’s so quick.”

Woods has been getting 90 yards of run downwind with a three-wood. “That’s the neat thing about links golf,” he said. “It’s predictable but also unpredictable at the same time.” Which makes perfect sense. Sort of.

Muirfield is no oil painting. It’s not pretty like Augusta National. It’s a windswept tundra wasteland on the East Lothian coastline. It’s beautifully ugly. And every player has fallen in love with it.

Making Hay: Poulter's Muirfield warning

* Ian Poulter has taken to Twitter to warn his fellow players of the dangers of finding the rough at Muirfield this week. “Your asking how the rough is at Muirfield,” the 37-year-old posted, along with this picture. “I thought it was Hay. Big tip for week Hit it on the mowed stuff.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high