A visit to Muirfield with my boss Ernie Els has turned me into a convert of the pre-preparation trip
There was a lot to ponder about the more immediate past, but even more to reminisce in last year’s victory at Lytham and his first Open win at Muirfield in 2002
If your ball ran into the rough off the firm fairways you would have a chance to get on the green. If you flailed your tee shot deep into the rough you would at best hack it out, at worst hit another one.
The speed of the greens was already alarmingly quick and by the time we got to the end of our first nine you could see foot indentations on the putting surfaces.
Naturally the course had been lengthened since 2002, under the guidance of Martin Hawtree, the current links design specialist. There are no radical changes, which is a tribute to an old course that has truly withstood the test of time.
Variety and subtlety
Muirfield is as good as a links course gets. Its got variety and subtlety that is highlighted in these pure summer links conditions. Ball striking and golfing nous will be required in abundance to master the 142nd Open venue. With fairway bunkers being so well placed, the impatient golfer will be tempted to take it on rather than adopting the discipline that the course demands for ultimate success.
An older gentleman appeared on the 18th tee sporting a stylish Borsalino hat rarely needed in these parts. He told Ernie that he was the walking marshal on the day he won 11 years ago. This invoked more fond memories for him.
Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the R and A caught up to us halfway round our second nine eager to hear the South African’s views on the presentation of the course.
With the vast stands framing the greens and the array of marquees already in place to entertain the army of golf enthusiasts, there was a strange feeling of being at the venue at the wrong time.
Having overnighted in the quaint Greywalls, and stepped out into a light westerly breeze the following morning, there was no doubt that it was a timely visit for Ernie. Having got to play the course in two very different winds with no interruption and with as much time as he wished to take on each and every hole, I turned into an overnight convert to the pre-preparation policy of the serious Major contender.
We were not alone, as we bumped into Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy adopting the same policy of two uninterrupted, quality practice rounds. Who knows how we will do but if the performance is not as desired, it certainly won’t be down to lack of preparation.