Bulldog's blog: Historic Muirfield buzzing early

Tiger Woods played nine holes at Muirfield on Sunday.

Tiger Woods played nine holes at Muirfield on Sunday.

Senior writer Alex Miceli, affectionately known as the Bulldog, will be in England and Scotland for nearly a month and will be keeping you updated with his latest tidbits in a daily blog for Golfweek. Here is his July 14 installment . . .

• • •

Bulldog's blog, July 8: A worthy trip to Tain

Bulldog's blog, July 9: Royal Dornoch builds on rich history

Bulldog's blog, July 10: A day at Castle Stuart with Paul McGinley

Bulldog's blog, July 11: An impressive day at Trump Scotland

Bulldog's blog, July 13: A walk with ghosts, greats at St. Andrews

• • •

GULLANE, Scotland -- Well, it’s not the home of golf, but Muirfield is a nice runner-up selection.

East Lothian, the area where Muirfield is located, has many great golf courses -- North Berwick, Gullane No. 1, Archerfield Links, The Renaissance Club and Dunbar to name a few.

But Muirfield is the one everyone raves about, and with good reason.

Laid out in 1891 as a 16-hole venue by Old Tom Morris, Muirfield would be extended to 18 holes the following year when it hosted its first Open Championship -- also the first time the championship was 72 holes.

Since then much has changed at Muirfield.

From 1892 when amateur Harold Hilton won the Championship with a score of 305, 14 other Opens have been contested on the Muirfield links. The winners are a who’s-who of champion golfers starting with Harry Vardon in 1896, James Braid 1901 and 1906, Ted Ray in 1912, Walter Hagen in 1929, Alf Perry in 1935, Henry Cotton in 1948, Gary Player in 1959, Jack Nicklaus in 1966, Lee Trevino in 1972, Tom Watson in 1980, Nick Faldo in 1987 and 1992 and Ernie Els in 2002.

As Muirfield was hosting Opens, it was also changing its complexion.

What started as a 117-acre golf course in 1892 that was ringed with stone walls became a relatively sprawling course with over 70 acres added, including recently when famed architect Martin Hawtree came it to make additional changes in length, bunker addition and repositioning.

Enough of the history lesson.

Officially the Open Championship doesn’t start until Monday, but with Tiger Woods on the course, its as good as time as any to declare the 142 Open Championship week commenced.

Woods played the front nine with Dustin Johnson and Jason Day in glorious sunshine and a bit of wind, which according to the Met Office forecast was 10-15 mph out of the west and increasing to 15-20 mph with the odd gust or 25 mph.

Those same weather men show little if any rain in the forecast, welcome news to many as the golf course will play as hard and fast as the R&A had hoped.

“This place is crispy," Johnson said after his first ever nine holes at Muirfield.

Johnson hit 3-wood, 3-wood at the 554-yard, par-5 ninth hole pin high proving that the driver doesn’t need to come out of the bag.

“From what I’ve seen no, not really.” Johnson said of the need to hit driver this week. “Obviously I could, but there is really no reason for me to hit driver.”

Johnson instead substituted his 5-wood with an Adams driving 2-iron, the 18-degree DHY Prototype.

The long-hitting Johnson said he would never abandon the driver and it would still be in the bag, but wasn’t sold on the 2-iron, partly because of two years ago down the stretch in the hunt at Royal St. George’s he pumped a 2-iron out of bounds on the final day.

Others on the range were Tim Clark, Brandt Snedeker and Darren Clarke.

Clarke, the 2011 Open Champion was continuing to work on eliminating a steep approach and laying off the club.

It was the same thing he was working on last week before missing the cut at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart.

An interesting housekeeping note, if a playoff is required on Sunday it would be Nos. 1-16-17-18 used, in that order.

With such beautiful weather and dark coming after 10:00 p.m., it’s always possible to get a late nine or 18 in, which sounds good about now.

Til tomorrow when Open Championship Week officially starts.

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