GULLANE, Scotland — Ten things to know about the British Open, to be played July 18-21 at Muirfield. The course has hosted the tournament 15 times before, from 1892 to 2002:
THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL
Muirfield is considered the purest of the links course in the British Open rotation. Blind shots are rare. Nothing is hidden. The course forms two loops, with the front nine running clockwise around the perimeter, and an inner loop for the back nine that goes counterclockwise. This means golfers face wind from all directions.
ROLL CALL OF CHAMPIONS
No other course that has hosted the British Open for a century features such a world-class list of champions. Every winner after World War II is in the World Golf Hall of Fame. This will be the 16th Open at Muirfield. All but two champions — Alfred Perry in 1935 and Ted Ray in 1912 — are in the Hall of Fame.
THE BIG EASY
For the first time since 1994, the defending champion is also the last player to win on the golf course. Ernie Els won last year at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and he won his first Open at Muirfield in 2002. In 1994 at Turnberry, the defending champion was Greg Norman, who had won his first Open on the Ailsa links.
TIGER'S MAJOR DROUGHT
A major seems to be the one tournament Tiger Woods can't win these days. He is 0-for-16 in the majors since winning his 14th at the 2008 U.S. Open. In the British Open, Woods has only one top 10 in his last four appearances.
MEN ONLY, BRITISH STYLE
Now that Augusta National has added two women as members, the debates shifts across the Atlantic Ocean. The Royal & Ancient Golf Club has no female members, and Muirfield is one of three courses on the British Open rotation that are all-male clubs. The others are Royal St. George's and Royal Troon.
THE YEAR OF 32s
Adam Scott was 32 when he won the Masters for his first major. Justin Rose was 32 when he won the U.S. Open for his first major. If that's a trend, it could be good news at the British Open for 32-year-old players like Brandt Snedeker or Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
The return to Muirfield is sure to bring back memories of Saturday in 2002, when a black cloud from the east brought cold air, 40 mph wind and a driving rain for just over two hours. Among those caught in the storm was Tiger Woods, whose bid for a Grand Slam ended with an 81, his highest score as a pro. Colin Montgomerie shot 84, 20 shots higher than his second round.
SIR NICK'S FAREWELL
Nick Faldo returns to play his last British Open at Muirfield, where he won two of his three claret jugs. Faldo won his first major in the 1987 British Open by making 18 pars in the final round. He won at Muirfield in 1992 by blowing a four-shot lead at the turn and finishing birdie-par for a one-shot victory.
The British Open produced popular winners the last two years in Ernie Els and Darren Clarke. But golf's oldest championship is the only major that has not produced a winner from the top 10 in the world over the last five years.