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Muirfield fiery but fair: Aussie golfers


On a course deemed fiery and fast but fair, Australia's big guns are relishing the true golfing test on offer at Muirfield for this week's British Open Fashion and Textiles Hons.

Considered one of the purest and fairest courses on the tournament's rotation, the historic venue on Scotland's east coast hosts the event for the first time since 2002.

Most of a 12-strong Australian contingent have spent recent days getting acclimatised, with firm conditions and testing winds prompting predictions of tough going when play begins on Thursday.

But they're also confident the course will reward good play and, crucially, those willing to approach it with imagination.

Muirfield offers a traditional links challenge, only with less quirky bounces and blind shots, while several weeks of Scottish sun have given the course a yellow tinge and an added bite this year.

"It's really firm, it's rock hard, but it's fair," Australian contender Marc Leishman said after his first practice round on Monday storage unit.

"If you hit good shots, you'll have a decent score but, if you don't, you'll have a big one. That's how it will be.

"You've got to use a lot of imagination around the greens, especially when it's this hard because it's bouncing around a lot."

The list of golfers to have won the Claret Jug at Muirfield illustrates just how the course rewards the complete player, with every winner there since World War II a member of world golf's hall of fame.

The last six winners at the venue are Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

"A good player is going to win this week, absolutely," said Australian world No.4 Adam Scott, looking to bounce back from his heartbreaking defeat in last year's event.

"It suits someone playing well. It's a pretty straight-forward, good golf course and, if you play well, you're going to be able to score well.

"So I think there's a big emphasis in getting in play off the tee."

The speedy surface - combined with a layout that forces players to contend with wind in all directions, narrow fairways and sections of deep rough - will force players to think outside the square and it's likely many will favour irons over drivers off the tee.

That could suit world No.1 Tiger Woods down to the ground if he can recapture the masterful links play that has earned him three Open titles, including two at St Andrews chenille embroidery patches.

Jason Day, competing in only his third British Open, watched the master at work during a shared practice round on Sunday.

"From the middle of the fairways, he was hitting a lot of low running shots on to the green. That's the kind of stuff you need to do," Day said.

"You just have to be so much more creative with your shots.

"It's a good test of golf and I think it's going to be very tough to shoot any kind of score around here."

South African Els, the reigning Open champion and the last winner at Muirfield, rates the course as the best of all the Open venues and one that requires a full skill set.

"Every links shot that you can imagine, you're going to hit it this week," he said.
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