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Tom Watson won at Muirfield in 1980 by four shots over Lee Trevino, which was a rarity in one respect. That was the only Open in the last six times at Muirfield that golf’s oldest championship was decided by more than one shot. Els won in a record four-man playoff the last time in 2002.

Muirfield is seen as a thorough examination that requires solid contact in any weather, which might explain why only the best players seem to win here _ Els, Nick Faldo twice, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Walter Hagen, Trevino.

Snedeker tied the 36-hole record at the British Open last year at 130 _ the same score Faldo had at Muirfield in 1992 _ and eventually tied for third. That was at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and he sounds like he loves Muirfield even more.

“There are defined areas where you need to hit it. How you get the ball in that defined area is up to you,” Snedeker said. “It’s a great mix of holes. I chart what I hit in the practice round, and I’ve hit every club in the bag every day. You’re hitting driver on some holes. You’re hitting 5-iron off the tee on some holes. It’s just a really cool mix. And depending on the wind, they can all play completely differently.

“I think it’s a great test,” he said. “There’s no letup out there whatsoever.”

What happens from here is difficult to project. Woods is trying to end a zero-for-16 drought in the majors. Rose is trying to become only the seventh player to win the U.S. Open and British Open in the same year. Els believes he has a chance to win again, which would put him in rare company _ Old Tom Morris in 1872 is the only other player in his 40s to successfully defend his title in a major.

“There’s so much to look forward to the way everything has shaped up for this Open Championship,” Scott said. “Very exciting week ahead.”