GULLANE, Scotland -- Two larger-than-life posters of Tiger Woods stand guard at the entrance of this coastal town steeped in golf tradition, an ominous reminder that the 131st British Open is all about one man and one mission.
No one has ever won the Grand Slam.
Woods is halfway there.
The next step is Muirfield, which has seen all this before.
Jack Nicklaus came to the famous links 30 years ago with hopes of becoming the first player to win all four major championships in the same year. He finished one stroke behind Lee Trevino and never got another chance at golf's Holy Grail.
Now, it's Tiger's turn.
Having won the Masters and the U.S. Open in convincing fashion, Woods goes after the third leg of the Grand Slam when the British Open begins Thursday at Muirfield.
"It's going to be a fun challenge," Woods said.
At only 7,034 yards for a par 71, Muirfield is by far the shortest course in the major championship rotation this year and figures to give more players a realistic chance.
Links golf is not about power but precision, making the right decision off the tee, staying out of pot bunkers and the knee-high rough framing both sides of the fairway.
No matter the course, Woods is just as feared.
"There is still one man to beat this week," Thomas Bjorn of Denmark said. "He just is better than everyone else, and I don't think the golf course matters that much. As long as he does his thing, he will still go out as the favorite."
Woods is no stranger to historic moments, or the pressure that comes with them.
Two years ago, after winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by a record 15 shots, he became the youngest player (24) to win the career Grand Slam when he won the British Open at St. Andrews, the home of golf.
He followed that with a PGA Championship, then the Masters the following spring for an unprecedented sweep of the professional majors.
His mental strength is his greatest weapon, and he has used that to block out the distractions and hype over his pursuit of history.
"In 2000, everyone was asking me about being able to complete the Slam at St. Andrews," he said. "I kept saying all week, 'First of all, I've got to play well and take care of business, and that will be an end result.'
"That's the same plan I have this year."
Critics called his four straight majors the "Tiger Slam," maintaining they have to be won in the same calendar year.
"He's done something nobody else has done, having all four at the same time," Nicklaus said. "Whether he does them all in one year, I think it's insignificant. If he did it, basically it would be two of them. That's not only unbelievable, that's super unbelievable"
That's not all that Nicklaus finds hard to believe. He wonders why no one has been able to give Woods much of a fight in the majors. Woods has won his eight major championships by a combined 44 strokes; Nicklaus won a record 18 majors by the same margin.
Nicklaus had to fight off Arnold Palmer, Trevino, Tom Watson.
Woods' biggest battle has come from Bob May.
"Tiger knows he can win," Nicklaus said. "The other guys aren't so sure."
Even in the days leading up to the British Open, some players have already conceded that their best hope is for Woods to be off his game.
"When I've played well, Tiger still has beaten me," two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els said. "Maybe I'm not good enough, then. Who knows?"
Colin Montgomerie, who won a record seven money titles in Europe, was asked what would happen if he played his best, and Woods played his best.
"He wins," the Scot said without hesitation. "We hope Tiger doesn't perform, and then we all will have an opportunity."
Els and Vijay Singh had their chances at the Masters until both made a triple bogey on the back nine at Augusta National. Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia were two strokes behind with 16 holes to play at the U.S. Open, but neither got any closer.
"He's able to do whatever it takes to be able to come out on top," Garcia said. "He just somehow manages to hang in there and not make many mistakes. That probably puts a little bit of extra pressure on the other guys."
No one is conceding the British Open to Woods just yet.
Dan Jenkins of Golf Digest was among the few American golf writers at Muirfield in 1972 when Nicklaus was going for the Grand Slam.
"There was a huge buildup," Jenkins said. "Everyone thought Jack was a lock."
Nicklaus was five strokes behind going into Sunday until putting together a magnificent charge that gave him the lead at one point late in the final round. But he missed an 8-foot par putt on No. 16, and Trevino chipped in for par on the 17th to seal the victory.
That might be what it takes. Woods has won all eight of his majors from ahead.
"I found that out the hard way," said Phil Mickelson, who has trailed him by five, four and two strokes in the last three majors that Woods has won. "I shot the lowest rounds of the day and barely made up any ground at all. To have a chance, I need to be right there heading into the final day."
As Woods has shown by winning seven of the last 11 majors, even that might not be enough.
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