Cast your eye down the previous list of Open champions at Muirfield and it reads like a Who’s Who of golf, from Henry Cotton to Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus to Tom Watson and Nick Faldo to Ernie Els.
All of them were multiple Open champions and all the signs are that whoever lifts the Claret Jug on Sunday afternoon will be more than worthy of the title of “champion golfer of the year”.
Els defends the title he won so spectacularly from Adam Scott 12 months ago, and the South African is also the defending Muirfield champion, having won when the event was last played on the Scottish course in 2002.
The storylines are plentiful. World No. 1 Tiger Woods is the favourite but has not won a Major for five years; No. 2 Rory McIlroy has been inconsistent in 2013; and England’s Justin Rose will be looking to follow up his US Open triumph by claiming Open glory.
Masters champion Adam Scott wants revenge over his near-miss last year; Phil Mickelson won the Scottish Open last weekend; and the likes of Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood will all be hopeful of winning their first Major title.
With the weather seemingly set fair this week, Woods says he is over a recent elbow injury and ready to break his five-year Major drought.
“The golf course is set up perfectly and I feel very good about my game going into these championships,” the three-time Open champion said.
“I have had a pretty good year, I have won four times, but I haven’t won a major championship in five years.
“I’ve been there on a bunch of them and had chances. I just need to keep putting myself there and eventually I will get some.”
Woods finished third behind Els last year and though the latter missed the cut in the Scottish Open last week, the South African believes he is in the frame of mind to add to his Major tally.
“I’m in good shape,” he said. “I feel pretty good about my game. I’m striking it nicely and there are a lot of good things happening. I have a really good feel about it.”
“There are some people who will tell you that, if you haven’t got your game Monday at the Championship, you’re not going to find it, but I think I proved that wrong in 2002,” Woods said.
McIlroy has been scrambling for form of late, still coming to grips with his switch of golf clubs. But Rose is high on confidence after last month becoming the first Englishman to win a Major since Paul Lawrie at the Open in 1999.
“The great thing is, having won the US Open, if I find myself coming down the final stretch that’s when I think it will pay off,” Rose said.
“If I go out there and put everything together, there are not many players who can beat me. That’s the exciting thing. If I go out and produce my best I’m going to be there or thereabouts.”
Though the weather forecast means scoring may be low, the speed of the fairways and the punishing rough will place a greater emphasis on accuracy off the tee.
England’s Nick Faldo won two of his three Opens at Muirfield, in 1987 and 1992, and he knows how important it is to stay out of the rough.
“You have to know where the next bounce is and where the run is,” said the 55-year-old Faldo, making his first Open appearance since 2010.
“Fanny Sunesson (his former caddie) stayed with me last night and that’s what we worked out so well in ‘92.
“But you’ve got to land the ball from A to B first, and that is the hard part. Realistically, it would be quite an achievement if I can hover close to making the cut.”
Faldo will be accompanied by five-time Open champion Tom Watson and Fred Couples, the winner in 1992.
Australia’s Peter Senior, Scotland’s Lloyd Saltman and Oliver Fisher of England will begin the 142nd Open at 6:32 a.m. on Thursday.