GULLANE, Scotland — The practice-round schedule posted each day at Muirfield is not the only way to determine how players are getting ready for the British Open.
Johnson Wagner's name was on the tee sheet at St. Andrews over the weekend.
Geoff Ogilvy could be found on the other side of the country, on links courses like Turnberry, Royal Troon and Western Gailes. Justin Rose was at North Berwick. So were Bubba Watson and Luke Donald, who got in plenty of golf along the Firth of Forth the week before the British Open.
It's not unusual for players to take off from their regular tours a week before a major to prepare. What's different about the British Open — isn't everything? — is that preparations aren't limited to the course they will be playing.
"You can prepare for the U.S. Open on the range," Ogilvy said Wednesday. "But you can only prepare for the [British] Open on the course. And it doesn't necessarily have to be the course you're playing."
Tiger Woods loves to recall his first experience with links golf in 1995 as the U.S. Amateur champion. He played the Scottish Open at Carnoustie, and then drove down the North Sea shoreline to St. Andrews for the British Open.
"I absolutely fell in love with it, to be able to dink a 5-iron from 150 yards and bump it on the ground, or vice versa — have 260 out and hit a 4-iron and it bounces over the green, he said. "That, to me, is pretty neat."
True, adjusting to links golf can just as easily take place at Muirfield, where the British Open starts today.
But there are no tricks at Muirfield. There are hardly any blind shots. Most of the bunkers are in plain view from the tee. That's one of the reasons that Muirfield is a favorite of so many players, who use words like "fair" and "honest test."