PREPARATIONS are well underway for Wirral's biggest event of the decade - the Open Golf Championship at Hoylake.
The eyes of the world soon will be on the borough, and no stone has been left unturned in the mammoth logistical task of making sure the show runs without a hitch.
Work on building grandstands around Royal Liverpool Golf Club links is well advanced, and a pioneering hi-tech wireless "mesh" will allow spectators to keep up with the action around the course on their smartphones and tablets.
The stands will cater for 20,000 spectators each day, while 200,000 are expected to walk the course to follow superstar players when the four-day feast of golf tees-off on Thursday, July 17.
Several changes have been made for this year's tournament, including a horseshoe-shaped grandstand around the 18th green for the first time at a British Open.
The course will be extended by 54 yards compared to 2006 — the last time the Royal Liverpool hosted the major — and the green on the first hole has been reshaped and rebunkered to make it the "hardest opening hole on the Open rota."
Malcolm Booth, communications director for organisers the R&A, says the cauldron feel around the 18th is sure to "provide a unique atmosphere for an Open."
While the Open perhaps is seen as the game's most traditional competition, the R&A have spent a fortune ensuring the very latest technology is on hand to enhance the "spectator experience."
A wi-fi mesh network is to be introduced at Hoylake this year, allowing fans to download an app which will let them view the BBC's television coverage in real time on their mobile devices.
Listening through earphones will be a must, of course.
Other innovations will see giant LED screens at 17 of the greens displaying information about the day's play.
Only the 18th - where the eventual victor will raise aloft the championship's famous Claret Jug trophy on the final day - will retain the iconic yellow leader board.
Underground fibre optics will ensure digital communications to media organisations across the world are super-fast, keeping a global audience of many millions up-to-date through instant coverage.
Hoylake Municipal Golf Course will be the players' practice ground and to minimise delays between there and the Royal Liverpool, travel plans have been revealed for Hoylake station to be the line's terminal for the week of the competition.
A fleet of buses will ferry passengers to and from West Kirby station, in a similar system employed the last time the Open came to Wirral.
The key question now for fans will be the "Tiger Factor".
Will the game's most famous and successful player - and its biggest draw - be involved in the 2014 Open and defend his Hoylake triumph?
Injury meant him missing the recent US Masters, and the R&A are waiting to hear about his fitness levels after he underwent back surgery on March 31 to relieve a pinched nerve.
However, at a press briefing today, the organisers seemed relaxed about the outcome; tickets are selling fast and at this point there is "no debate" about Tiger missing the British major.
When a smiling Tiger lifted the Claret Jug in the July sunshine of 2006, he declared Wirral was home of "The Friendly Open."
His fans from Hoylake to Hawaii will be hoping he's here to repeat the performance.
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