Members of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers shed decades when the conversation turns to the 2013 Open at their club. “Only 79 more days,” exclaimed the newly installed captain at the Open media day two weeks ago. Robin Dow, a 9-handicap man, continued, “It’s such a thrill to be able to see the top golfers playing your course. OK, there’s a bit of inconvenience leading up to the championship but it only happens every 10 years or so … ” Dow suggests that the level of eager anticipation has a lot to do with Muirfield’s history. The Hon. Company promulgated the first Rules of Golf in 1744, while they did as Prestwick and the R&A in 1872 in contributing £10 towards the price of the Claret Jug. “Muirfield and the Open,” he mused, “are gloriously intertwined.” The shot Dow recalls from the 2002 installment was eventual winner Ernie Els’ sand save at the 13th. “His ball rose almost vertically from the bottom of the bunker before taking one or two bounces and finishing three feet from the hole. I’ve never stopped wondering how he did it.” Dow revels in delivering the message that Muirfield, because of its intrinsic fairness, has sired the strongest list of champions of any Open venue. The last six of these men – Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Nick Faldo and Els, boast 18 Opens among them. (Here, for the sake of those who like a bet, it is worth noting that all these men won at Muirfield while staying in the adjacent Greywalls hotel – something which is hardly the best news for Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke in that their manager has rented a £3 million home on the other side of the clubhouse.) In spite of all of the building excitement, Muirfield’s love affair with the 21st Century Open is in many ways more than passing strange. For example, their own modus operandi could not be further removed from the professionals’ way of golf.