There was an almost serene feeling wandering around Hoylake today, much like the calm period before an almighty storm strikes. The players are buoyant, the crowds are relaxed, and everyone is optimistic of a successful Open Championship as Thursday draws ever nearer.
The practice rounds at any Major are always a little surreal. Many of the field will have arrived at Royal Liverpool this week with memories of 2006 or a keen and in-depth understanding of the nuances of this notoriously tricky layout, but for others, the experience is completely new and they are just beginning to discover what the course has in store for them this week.
Today has been about experimenting, tinkering and gaining a feel for how the course will as the tournament progresses.
The last time the championship visited the Wirral, Hoylake was scorched to the point of being desert-like, so much so that eventual champion Tiger Woods left his driver in the bag and relied heavily on a 2-iron from the tee.
Although temperatures have soared today, the fairways are much softer than they were in 2006 and I would be surprised if we see anything close to the conditions the players faced last time this week.
One of the great things about visiting an Open Championship practice day is that you get a real feel for how much individuality comes into preparing for a Major.
I headed down to the driving range earlier and the contrast in styles was plain to see. Some players were happy to simply wander onto the range and hit a few balls before making their way onto the course, while others were obsessing over small equipment changes, grooving swing patterns and trying to clean the range out of balls before their round began.
One of the highlights of my first day at the championship was being invited for an ad-hoc guided tour of the TaylorMade tour truck One of the highlights of my first day at the championship was being invited for an ad-hoc guided tour of the TaylorMade tour truck to see how the equipment manufacturer was doing their bit to help the likes of Rose, Day and Garcia get to the first tee on Thursday with their bags in optimum shape.
Usually it is an exaggeration to say that anything has everything, but here it was absolutely the case. From new clubheads to grips and over 3000 different shafts, the team of experts were working tirelessly on any equipment adjustments that any player deemed necessary.
In press conferences, the likes of Woods, Rose, Scott, McIlroy and Poulter seemed calm, relaxed and highly optimistic of success. They played down any perceived problems as mere insignificances , with the returning Tiger even going as far as saying that the only acceptable result will be a win.
One thing is for sure, these practice days will whet everyone’s appetite in anticipation of the first tournament day on Thursday.