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Nick Faldo taking a last swing at Muirfield

GULLANE, Scotland — If given the option, Nick Faldo would prefer not to be standing over a putt to win the British Open.

‘‘I’m either going to win by six,’’ Sir Nick joked Monday, ‘‘or be stuck in the hay somewhere.’’

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There’s a lot better chance of the latter happening.

Faldo is grabbing the clubs again for what will surely be his final Open, though his chances of being the latest 50-something player to make a serious run at the claret jug are beyond improbable.

He hasn’t played a truly competitive round since his last Open at St. Andrews in 2010, hasn’t played much at all over the last three years. But Faldo couldn’t resist the chance to celebrate his birthday — he turns 56 on Thursday, the day of the opening round — at a course that means so much to him.

Faldo won the first of his major titles at Muirfield in 1987. Five years later, he added his name to the claret jug again at the very same place.

Both times, he won by a stroke, with a par on the 72d hole.

‘‘Wow, I’ve got a very special place here — the 18th green at Muirfield,’’ Faldo said. ‘‘That won in my heart and my mind.’’

While making the cut is probably about the best he can hope for, Faldo has relished the process of trying to get his game — and his body — back in shape to be somewhat competitive with players half his age.

He’s been rehabbing his ailing left shoulder. He’s been working on his swing with those high-tech gadgets that weren’t around in his prime. He chatted up Gio Valiante, the sports psychologist for new US Open champion Justin Rose.

‘‘I’ve gleaned a few gems there,’’ Faldo said. ‘‘These kids, they’ve got it all now. We were still searching back in my time. I’m really enjoying that. The bottom line, I hope that for the end of the week I’m inspired, like all of us; that I want to play again and have another go here. I think that’s really what’s in mind.’’

He figured he was done after that last Open at St. Andrews, where he shot 81 on a windy second day and didn’t come close to making the cut.

‘‘I didn’t enjoy that,’’ he said.

But that all changed when Faldo was doing a commercial shoot a few months ago, in which he was asked to talk about his favorite courses. At first, he thought of the coastline at Pebble Beach, the towering pines at Augusta National, the history and atmosphere at St. Andrews. Then, he remembered Muirfield.

‘‘That maybe sowed some seeds,’’ he said. Later, ‘‘I was in my gym at home, and I thought at the time, ‘You’re just strong enough to have a go.’ It might be the last chance I get to walk with fellow Open champions. And so I kind of said, ‘OK, I’m going to go for it.’ ”

In 2009, a few months shy of his 60th birthday, Tom Watson nearly became the oldest major champion in history. He led going to the 72d hole at Turnberry, only to make a bogey and lose in a playoff to Stewart Cink.

Experience clearly counts in this tournament. A year before Watson’s remarkable performance, 53-year-old Greg Norman was the leader heading to the final day at Royal Birkdale.

Faldo has no illusions about making a similar run, saying it ‘‘would be quite an achievement if I could hover close to making the cut.’’

Faldo is paired in the first two rounds with Fred Couples and Watson, a five-time Open champion.

The draw also has Tiger Woods playing the opening two rounds with former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and former US Open champion Graeme McDowell. They tee off at 2:45 p.m. local time (9:45 a.m. EDT), with a 9:44 a.m. (4:44 a.m. EDT) start on Friday. It’s the first time Woods has been drawn with either of them on a weekday of a major.

Woods is the betting favorite to end his five-year drought in the majors.

Rory McIlroy plays with Scottish Open winner Phil Mickelson, along with Hideki Matsuyama of Japan.

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