The fascination with this 147th Open could be that no-one seems quite clear on how Carnoustie will play, and we’re going to see some vastly different approaches.
Shane Lowry, the Irishman who knows a fair bit – more than most in the field – about links conditions, thinks that the long hitters who feel they can fly the bunkers and all the trouble are in for a rude awakening. The course is so fast, he thinks, that the bunkers and the rough will gobble them up, and he plans a careful, strategic passage across the Championship Course.
Fellow Irishman Rory McIlroy, whose links record – well he won at Hoylake in 2014 of course, but not in proper links conditions – isn’t all that great, is intrigued by the cutting back of the gorse on many holes and that there’s five or six yards on either side of narrow fairways “where it’s still okay”.
The rough is not uniformly fearsome, for sure. Rory says he hasn’t been getting many flyers out of the rough this week. It all suggests he may be tempted to open his shoulders off the tee.
But although a hard-running course with a bit of wind isn’t exactly what we identify as a Rory-favouring set-up, he’s keen to prove us all wrong.
“I think with links golf, you have to adapt,” he said. “There’s not going to be one player in this field that has a game plan tonight and is going to stick to that game plan the whole way around for 72 holes.
“It’s just not going to happen with wind conditions, with pins. And you start to feel a little bit more comfortable with a few shots, and you might start to take some (things) on.
“You plan to play the golf course a certain way, but then guys on Saturdays and Sundays take way more drivers and way more risks because they’ve played the course weighed it up, and said, `you know what, I think this is worth (the risk)’.
“It’s going to be really interesting, there’s some guys that will see it completely different than the way I see it and vice versa.”
Carnoustie was where Rory made his Open debut, winning the Silver Medal as a shaggy-haired amateur teenager – “Yeah, I probably thought I looked great when I looked in the mirror back then” he laughed – and he’s played it multiple times on occasional visits for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. There should be few mysteries out there for him.
But just in case, he was seen out on course getting some lines and directions from the former Scottish amateur international and many-times Carnoustie Links champion, Eric Ramsay, a foremost authority on the wiles of the Championship Course.
As he seeks to end a spell barren of major titles now lasting four years, it’s easy to recall how things were simpler for Rory in 2007. There were the aforementioned curls billowing out from under his cap, and a carefree attitude he’d quite like to recapture at 29.
“It was actually nice playing (practice) with Jon Rahm because the first instinct he has is get up on a tee box and pull a driver out of the bag, not think about the trouble or think about anything,” he said.
“As you get a little older, you get a little more cautious in life, it’s only natural. I don’t want to say naive, but there is something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff.
“And I remember back to when we last played The Open here, and I was just happy to be here.
“I was bouncing down the fairways, didn’t care if I shot 82 or 62. I was just happy to be here.”