The greens are among the purest on the British Open rotation. The rough is thick, but not deep enough to lose a caddie. A 200-yard shot can be either a 9-iron or a 2-iron, depending on the wind.
And unlike the U.S. Open last month at Shinnecock Hills, opinions are not likely to change.
Justin Leonard won at Royal Troon in 1997 and hardly noticed anything different when he returned, a tribute to the Royal & Ancient philosophy of letting Mother Nature have more of an influence than a lawn mower. Tournament officials even considered turning on the sprinklers until it rained Tuesday night.
'I think the R&A does an incredible job of setting the golf course up fairly and maintaining the course the way it is meant to be played, and not worrying about what the winning score is,' Leonard said. 'The weather dictates that. I think that's the way it should be.'
It wasn't like that at Shinnecock Hills.
Still fresh in the minds of players is the debacle on Long Island, when the U.S. Golf Association tried to protect its most precious commodity -- par -- by keeping water off the greens until shots no longer stayed there, scores soared into the 80s and no one managed to break 70 in the final round.
Robert Allenby was asked to give three examples of how he knows this is the British Open. He didn't mention the traditional yellow-and-black scoreboards, fish and chips, or even brilliant views of the Ailsa Craig jutting out of the sea.
'The greens are playable,' Allenby said. 'The greens are not running 15 on the Stimpmeter. And the course is set up the way it should be set up. It is set up to be a true test of golf.'
Allenby, whose even-par 70 was the best score on Sunday at Shinnecock, then was asked to look ahead at a scenario where Royal Troon gets out of hand.
'They can't do it,' he said.
The best example of how comfortable the R&A is with the British Open setup is that it cares little about the winning score. The wind howled at St. Andrews in 1995, and John Daly won in a playoff at 6 under par. Five years later, there was barely a breeze and Woods set a major championship record at 19 under par.
Well done. See you next year.
'I think one of the big differences to the United States and the U.K. is that we are very fortunate that our weather patterns and nature itself allows golf courses to flourish without too much interference,' said Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the R&A. 'I think the USGA would agree that they got it wrong on Sunday at Shinnecock, but when you're trying to set up a golf course that's a strong test for players, it can be very difficult to get it right.
'We're out to find the best player in the conditions that prevail this week.'
For the first time in more than five years, the search doesn't begin with Woods.
He is still the No. 1 player in the world, although he can lose that ranking at Royal Troon if Els wins the claret jug and Woods finishes 17th or lower.
Woods played his final practice round Wednesday morning in the kind of weather that defines the British Open -- calm, wind, rain, rain that came down sideways and then sunshine. All that before he got through the front nine.
He starts this major with an afternoon tee time Thursday, playing alongside Greg Norman and Lee Westwood. Woods has been playing links golf since he was a teenager, and knows this is the one major that is beyond his control more than the other three.
'This one presents a different challenge,' he said. 'You're going to hit a good shot and get a bad bounce, or hit a marginal shot and get a great bounce. You know everyone is going to be dealing with it.'
The betting favorite is Els, who won the Open at Muirfield two years ago and had good chances at the first two majors this year. If the Big Easy needed any additional inspiration, he might have found it Tuesday when told that a prominent USGA official suggested Els 'gave up' in the final round of the U.S. Open, where he closed with an 80.
'If I did give up, I would have shot 100,' Els said. 'I'd like to meet the guy that said that.'
Els played his first major at Royal Troon as a 19-year-old in 1989, and he considers this one of the best tests on the rotation.
He also took a dig at the USGA.
'It's a very fair, good test of golf,' he said. 'The greens are running beautiful, and I can't see the greens getting away from us this time.'
Els might have the best odds by British bookies, but the list of favorites is longer than ever. Adding to the openness of this British Open is that the claret jug has gone to 13 players in the last 13 years, the longest streak at any major.
'I think everybody will feel like they have a chance,' Padraig Harrington said. 'It's not a golf course that suits long or straight hitters. It suits everybody.'
It might even suit Mickelson.
The Masters champion has never finished higher than 11th in the British Open, but he has never prepared for one quite like this. He has played three full practice rounds, writing down notes along the way. The same shots he has worked on all year -- lower trajectory with less spin -- should come in handy at Royal Troon.
Mickelson showed up a week ago for his first round of practice and was duly impressed.
'I thought it looked sensational,' he said. 'But then again, so did Shinnecock the week before.'
Not to worry.
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