This year, Muirfield Golf Club will host the Open Championship for the 16th time in its illustrious history. Few will forget the last time the East Lothian course held the third major of the year, when in 2002, the Scottish weather bore its teeth and cost Tiger Woods the chance to complete the Grand Slam.
The 14-time major winner was on a roll having won the Masters and the US Open that year but shot his worst professional round to date at that point on the Saturday at the Open, a ten-over 81, killing any hopes he can of another major triumph.
11 years on, and Muirfield is likely to claim its fair share of big name casualties this time around, with only the great and the good having conquered the course in the past. The great Jack Nicklaus once described Muirfield as the best course in Britain, although that was after his victory in 1966 and before it cost him his chance of completing the grand slam in 1972.
A look back at past winners should give you an insight into the caliber of player you can expect to win this year’s Open, with Gary Player, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo, and current Claret Jug holder, Ernie Els, all previous winners.
The South African has recently had to deny having called the rough at Muirfield “ridiculous” and “waist-high”, although he has admitted the course will be a challenge.
Wannabe major winner, Lee Westwood, has also admitted the links is going to be tough to negotiate, especially if the gale force winds which hampered Woods return. Those competing at the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart – the week before the Open – should be well-prepared for what Muirfield can throw at them, although the glorious summer weather is likely to take the edge off the European Tour event.
Either way, the challenge of tackling Muirfield is one that cannot be underestimated. Majors are not meant to be easy to win and, if the weather bares its teeth, it could be a nightmare weekend for some. For others, the satisfaction of conquering this tricky course is one that is likely to stay with them forever.
Written by Celia Roche