Royal Lytham and St. Annes lived up to its reputation in Round 1 of the 2012 British Open.
The course can flex its muscles when the weather goes south but can be had otherwise. Many of golf's big names took advantage of Thursday's favorable conditions.
Current leader Adam Scott has never led at the end of any day in a major championship, but has been considered a golfer with top-tier ability for years.
Whether it's Scott or not, it seems the Open Championship winner at this venue is once again destined to be an elite player.
The Top 10 is littered with past major champions and top guns looking to win their first of golf's most prestigious titles.
Here is what went right and wrong for the Open Championship's top performers on an exciting, birdie-filled first day.
The game's brightest young talent flashed the form he displayed early in 2012 when he ascended to No. 1 in the world briefly.
McIlroy had five birdies on the day but also double bogeyed No. 15 after hitting his drive out of bounds. He also suffered a disappointing three-putt bogey on No. 10.
Although he left a couple shots on the course, McIlroy responded well against adversity all day, particularly after the aforementioned double bogey.
On the very next hole, McIlroy boomed a drive onto the green and struck his eagle putt on a perfect line but just short.
A stellar first round will go a long way for McIlroy, and he will stride into Friday on a high note thanks to a birdie at the last hole.
Tiger’s front nine was phenomenal. It seemed like he didn’t miss a single shot.
The tide turned a little bit on Tiger after he went four under on his first seven holes, though. Disappointment over missed birdie opportunities at No. 8 and 9 seemed to linger after the turn.
As a result, Tiger managed to play the last 11 holes in only one over-par.
There are still plenty of positives the legend can take from his three-under 67.
He made a couple of nice mid-range putts on the front and hung tough despite no birdies on the day after No. 7.
One of the few predictions I may be right about is that Tiger will finish in the top five. If the first round was any indication, he looks to be in great position to do just that.
McDowell only hit 11 of 18 greens in relatively easy conditions but scored well thanks to just 26 putts.
Those numbers resulted in an up-and-down day, as the Northern Irishman converted on six birdie opportunities but also carded three bogeys to fire a first-round 67.
Overall, McDowell was pleased with how he played despite his relatively uneven showing Thursday:
"You've got to get in a relaxed frame of mind, get your attitude correct for the day and accept that you're going to make mistakes.
"I did that well today and I reacted well to my mistakes generally—that's all you can ask for."
Based on his recent performance at the U.S. Open and his first round at the British, McDowell seems to have established himself as a perennial major contender for the foreseeable future.
It wouldn't be surprising to see McDowell in the chase for his first Claret Jug on Sunday.
As the PGA Tour's leader in greens in regulation on the season, Watson's game tee to green hasn't been the problem this season.
However, Thursday proved to be a different story. Twenty-eight putts bailed the reigning Masters champion out of trouble all day as he salvaged a 67.
A tamed version of the famously aggressive "Bubba Golf" and a hot putter leaves Watson only three off the lead entering Round 2.
It seems Watson is building on his first made Open cut in 2011, but the experience he gained at the most recent major may have helped him the most.
If a player of Watson's talent and shot-making creativity can figure out how to adjust his game to links golf, he could be a threat in this Open Championship and many others.
The 42-year-old still has something left in the tank and contended for his third U.S. Open title at The Olympic Club in June.
Els tied for third the last time the British was held at Royal Lytham in 2001 and won the Claret Jug the following year.
The 67 Els shot on Thursday was simply a sound ball-striking round: 63 FIR%, 72 GIR%.
His 29 putts were a little better than the field average, but Els could use a few more to fall moving forward. That shouldn't be too tall of an order, considering Els is enjoying immensely improved putting this season.
The knock on Els is that he should have far more than just three major championships on his resume. This may be true, because outside of his major triumphs, he has had an astounding 17 top-five finishes.
Once again, Els is in the thick of things this week, and little in his health or his game seems to be going wrong.
Snedeker is just entering his prime as a proven winner on the PGA Tour but hasn't had much success in majors.
The event that has plagued him the most over the years is the British Open, which is why Snedeker's 66 on Thursday was particularly surprising.
Having missed the cut in all three of his previous Open appearances, Snedeker seemingly figured out links golf overnight and thrived in the tougher conditions of the afternoon wave.
Only Snedeker and Bob Estes managed to play bogey-free golf at Royal Lytham in the first round.
The only truly awful break Snedeker got all day was a violent lip-out for birdie from about 30 feet away on the last hole.
Even though dinner will taste a little worse after the disappointment on the last green, Snedeker looks primed to contend at the British Open for the first time.
A see-saw sort of day for Stricker was defined by an eagle at No. 13 followed by a double bogey on the subsequent hole.
Other than that, not much went wrong for Stricker. He is an elite player on the leaderboard that is arguably the most due to win this week.
Stricker has notched only two Top 10s in 12 previous appearances at the Open, but his most positive results in golf's third major have been within the past five years.
Hitting 15 of 18 greens was impressive on Thursday, but Stricker managed to hit only half of Royal Lytham's 14 fairways.
Accuracy off the tee will have to improve if Stricker wants to have a chance at winning this week. He'll be pressing his luck hitting into that ridiculously thick rough so frequently.
The 1999 Open champion may contend in this championship for the first time since his stunning victory at Carnoustie.
Lawrie has missed seven cuts and not finished better than a tie for 42nd since 2000. Thursday's round was quite the reversal of fortune for the Scotsman.
Chip-in birdies at the third and fifth holes kept the momentum going early despite lackluster ball-striking.
The persistence Lawrie showed paid off when his play picked up late, and he birdied three of the final five holes to finish at five under par.
At age 43, Lawrie has had a career renaissance over the past season and a half and has worked his way up to No. 31 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Whether he has the game to win his second Open Championship remains to be seen, but this is by far the most encouraging start to this event in Lawrie's entire career.
The Belgian bomber showed the precision in Round 1 that has helped him rise quickly in the world rankings.
Colsaerts hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation en route to a spectacular five-under-par round of 65. His most impressive shot was on the par-4 second hole, when he holed out for an eagle.
Despite finishing in the afternoon when conditions slightly worsened, Colsaerts still managed to shoot two-under on the back nine.
The U.S. Open was the first taste Colsaerts got of major championship contention, and apparently he's a quick learner.
Perhaps this week, Colsaerts can have a stronger finish. He certainly generated plenty of momentum after Day 1.
Fresh off his second PGA Tour victory of the season at last week's John Deere Classic, Johnson showed no signs of slowing down despite the increased pressure of a major championship.
Johnson needed only 25 putts and recorded seven birdies in a round of 65.
The biggest key to Johnson's round was avoiding trouble, as he hit 11 of 14 fairways.
That sort of precision highlights the key to winning at Royal Lytham, as Johnson is definitely not one of the longest hitters in the field.
His win at the 2007 Masters proved Johnson can get it done at a major, but he is arguably playing the best golf of his career in 2012.
Johnson should at the very least register a top-10 result this week with the tear he's currently on. Surprisingly, it would be his first such result at the British Open should he pull it off.
It's hard to believe that Scott has never led after any round of a major until now.
The former world No. 3 sported a strong all-around game in Round 1 and lit up the back nine with five birdies against just one bogey at No. 18.
The major record round of 63 was clearly well within reach, and the fact he didn't reach that score or eclipse it was really the only thing that went wrong for the laid-back Aussie.
Still, Scott has to be extremely pleased atop the leaderboard after firing a 64.
Will the guidance of Tiger Woods' former caddy Stevie Williams result in a breakthrough for Scott at a major championship?
There's an intriguing question. On top of that, ever since the switch to the belly putter, Scott seems to have renewed confidence after a couple of tumultuous years.
There's no question, though, that Scott the man is more attractive than that two-gripped broomstick he uses on the greens.
But hey, whatever works!
It may be difficult to take his impractical flat blade seriously, but it would be nice to see a player of Scott's caliber and perseverance bring home the hardware this weekend.