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 hundreds of miles away 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 Open on the course. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be the course you’re playing. The seaside courses here, they’re the only courses with turf like this, with sand like this. There’s something different about the seaside wind in Scotland. ... You can fly to Shanghai or Abu Dhabi and work on what you need at home. But you can’t work on what you need at home until you get here.”

Tiger Woods, a three-time Open champion, arrived Sunday morning and has played nine holes a day. 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. That, to me, is pretty neat. Because we play everywhere around the world – an airborne game where you have to hit the ball straight up in the air and make it stop. Here it’s different. A draw will go one distance, a fade will go another, and they’re so dramatic. And I just absolutely love it.”

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,” which aren’t always heard on other links courses.

The forecast is dry for the week, with perhaps some mist on the weekend. Even though officials had the course just the way they wanted it early in the week, they have turned on a few sprinklers in the evening to keep it from getting overcooked.

“I think it’s no exaggeration to say that in my time at the R&A with direct involvement in The Open Championship, which goes back to 2000, factors have combined this year to make this the best course setup we’ve ever had in that period,” R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said. “The course is just as we want it. It’s hard. It’s fast. It’s in wonderful condition. The rough is just right. I think the players are enjoying it.”

It all starts to unfold this morning when Peter Senior of Australia hits the opening tee shot.

Among the early starters are Els, Rose and Brandt Snedeker in one group, with Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama a few groups behind. The afternoon groups include Woods, Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen, along with Masters champion Adam Scott, Donald and Matt Kuchar.

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.

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.”