The two areas of prime fascination at this 143rd Open appear to be where Tiger Woods will finish and who will win. And it says much about the tone of the narrative that these issues seem utterly distinct.
Woods maintains he is here to win, but his practice schedule this week tells of a contrasting emotion to confidence. He has played 50 holes since arriving on Saturday and nobody can remember the last time he played so many holes in a build-up. It smacks of the desperation of a man desperately in search of something.
In truth, Woods showed very little on his return from back surgery at Congressional three weeks ago, where he missed the cut. His shortgame was simply awful and his long game did not reach commendable. It is too much to expect Woods to come back from a 12-week absence before that tournament, from an injury which he believed had threatened his career, to contend here.
Of course, his supporters will point to 2006 when he brought Hoylake and his rivals to their knees with a masterclass in course management. Woods did not need to overpower this links, but instead, employing only one driver all week, plotted a sandless path to his third claret jug. Could he not do so again, relying not on the "explosiveness" which he claims is quickly returning, but on his genius between the ears?
Perhaps. Lightning can be caught in a bottle. Yet Hoylake 2014 is not the same as Hoylake 2006. Even if the rains yesterday (Wednesday) will definitely not make it a pinboard and even if the players are all saying it is running fast despite its green hue, the forecast is not for unadulterated sunshine like eight years ago. We might get a fine start, with nothing greater than a ruffling breeze today, but then it is forecast to deteriorate.
Friday is predicted to be warm, but the wind is supposed to gust up to and beyond 20mph. That will radically alter the Hoylake examination. Saturday will almost certainly see rain, with the temperature dropping.
Sunday looks settled but Open participants could feel beaten up by then. That is no condition in which a 38-year-old coming off a back operation to be rediscovering major-winning form after a six-year drought.
Still, it will be intriguing when he tees off a 9.04am today in the company of the Swede Henrik Stenson and Angel Cabrera. He limited his exertions yesterday to light chipping and a quick two holes. After his efforts on the first four days that was understandable, though he dutifully signed autographs. There no doubt about who Hoylake are backing.
If it is up to collective willpower then the hero of 2006, the legend who lit up the Wirral's wondrous week, will indeed complete the most astonishing win of his astonishing career. Yes, he won on one leg at the US Open, but a few months ago he could not walk. However, as the crowds swarmed around him, Merseyside was being anything but negative.
Out on the links, John Singleton - the golfing Rocky Balboa, who works in a factory in Birkenhead - was living the dream, practising with John Daly and Dustin Johnson, while at the other end of the scale, the world No 1 Adam Scott was with Ernie Els and two young Americans in Brooks Koepka and Harris English. It is the Open with something for everyone.
For England, the most obvious potential storyline is Justin Rose, as he bids to do an 'Andy Murray'. Backed into favouritism after his victory at the Scottish Open on Sunday, Rose would emulate the Scottish tennis player by winning his 'home' major, the year after he won the US Open. The forecast favours Rose, as he relishes a tough test. However, expectation has its disadvantages and Rose's recent Open form does not inspire confidence. It is only 28 miles from Hoylake to Birkdale, but in the 16 years since Rose, as a skinny 17-year-old amateur, chipped in on the 18th to finish fourth, his Open journey has not yielded another top 10.
With the defending champion Phil Mickelson out of form, Stenson makes the most sense, even if the German Martin Kaymer is turning into the ultimate big-time performer with wins at the last two big events, the Players and the US Open.
Stenson clicked into an incredible run this time last year and there is growing conviction in his camp that he could go one better than at Muirfield 12 months ago. Stenson has the chance to go to world No 1 if he wins, as do Rose, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar. Stenson would need Scott to finish outside the top three, while Rose would need to finish outside the top six. That lends the week yet another interesting subplot.
Rory McIlroy will doubtless have his supporters and, so he should, after his opening 64 at Royal Aberdeen seven days ago. But if Friday is dodgy conditions-wise then how will McIlroy possibly succeed in his mission of conquering his "second-round thing"? The significance of his freaky Fridays is probably being overstated, but what seems undeniable is McIlroy's propensity this season to throw in a calamatious nine holes.
It would be no surprise to witness McIlroy swaggering into early contention and so grab the media coverage which Woods leaves over, before trudging out of it again. That appears McIlroy's problem, yet it will not last forever and when the switch stays on, McIlroy will again command the most coveted winning circles.
As for the Hoylake challenge, Padraig Harrington was bemoaning its beautiful manicuring. "If anything it's too perfect," said the 2007 and 2008 champion. "The ones of us who love difficult links don't want to be hearing the non-links players saying they love it out there."
Harrington wants it nasty and unfair. He could yet get his wish.