Graeme McDowell 'fired up' by Tiger Woods
Graeme Mcdowell's eyes lit up early yesterday evening as he caught a first glimpse of Muirfield, golden brown and stretched out invitingly under a setting sun.
It took his mind right back to Hoylake in 2006 and the last British Open played in classic links conditions on concrete-hard, quick-running turf.
McDowell led after the first round that week with an inspired 66 but remembers just as clearly how Tiger Woods brilliantly plotted his path to the most recent of his three British Open victories, hitting driver just once all week.
Perhaps it's an omen that Ireland's all-or-nothing hero, who's won three and missed the cut in five of his past eight events, is 'drawn' with World No 1 Tiger and 2010 winner at St Andrews Louis Oosthuizen in the first two rounds.
"I've played with Tiger enough now over the years to be more than comfortable with it and you want to be playing with the best in the world," he said.
"You don't need to create any intensity on the Thursday of a Major but playing with him increases the focus. It gets you fired up and ready to go.
"He's the kind of guy you want to be measuring yourself against on a course set up like this. Finish one ahead of Tiger on Sunday and you're not going to be far away.
"The last time we played an Open as fast as this was at Hoylake and he dismantled the place. This will appeal to him tactically, and me too."
McDowell hopes that the fresh south-westerly wind, which was blowing at 20mph as he headed out for a handful of holes before dark, will make this year's tournament a true test of greatness.
"They're saying this breeze is not going to be around at the weekend but it'll be a great test if we get a day or two like this to separate the wheat from the chaff, if you like. I'm excited about it," he said.
"I came here for the first time last Monday and Tuesday and it completes my Open set. It was the only course on the rota I hadn't played and it's very special. Hit good shots at Muirfield and you get rewarded; hit bad shots and you get punished."
Meanwhile, Jordan Spieth (19), who on Sunday became the youngest winner in 82 years on the PGA Tour by prevailing on the fifth tie hole at the John Deere Classic, reported to Muirfield for his first taste of the atmosphere at the British Open after flying in on an overnight charter.
Spieth forced his way into sudden death with Zach Johnson and David Hearnby holing for a sensational birdie from a greenside bunker at the final hole.