PATIENCE, accuracy and the ability to improvise are the over-riding qualities which will be required by golf's superstars at this week's 122nd British Open Championship. Capricious winds, uneven bounces and blind tee shots combine to make the 6,860-yard, par-70 links layout at Royal St George's in the southern English county of Kent the most demanding course on the Open roster. ''It's the toughest course, purely from the conditions,'' said England's Nick Faldo, the world number one who won his third Open crown at Muirfield last year and is the favourite of the bookies again this time. So meticulous is Faldo in his preparations for the major championships that he arrived at the course last week straight from his timely play-off triumph in the Irish Open rather than take part in the Scottish Open. Faldo does not believe in leaving anything to chance. He said: ''I am playing the course in as many different winds as possible. It is very firm, and key factors are going to be the wind and coping with the bounces . . . trying to get a feel for them and shape the shots to suit the weather conditions. ''You need an awful lot of imagination on the course, different shots to work the ball. Be delighted to get on the green most of the time. It's going to be tough keeping it going and you'll have to be very patient.'' Such is the unpredictability of the winds and the bounces that Faldo is not alone in believing that the winning 72-hole total may well be above par. ''The course is bouncy but I have some memories of the humps and hollows. You can get unlucky bounces, but that applies to all links courses,'' said Scotsman Sandy Lyle, who won the Open in 1985, the last time it was held at Sandwich, with a score of 282,two over par. Like Lyle, Australian Greg Norman believes he is overdue another Open title - his only previous major success having come at Turnberry in 1986. ''I feel I am ready for another major win. I have put my game plan back into line. My game is strong right now and I can be in a position to win the Open,'' he said. Norman also considers that the eventual winner will have some good breaks over the next four days. ''Royal St George's is the most difficult of all the Open courses. It can be more severe here than anywhere else. You need to play a mental game for the week and it's a course where you must show patience,'' he said. Unlike American-style courses which tend to favour players who hit the ball high, the ability to keep the ball low and work it around will be vital at Sandwich. For that reason, players such as Faldo, Lyle, Ian Woosnam, Jose-Maria Olazabal and in-form Zimbabwean Nick Price, winner of his last two tournaments in the US, are all likely to be to the fore along with US Masters champion Bernhard Langer, third on the Sandwich course in 1981 and runner-up to Lyle in 1985. Although Mark Calcavecchia is the only American to have won the title in the past nine years, US Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson, himself a five-time Open winner, is confident his men can threaten the Europeans with whom they will lock horns at The Belfry inSeptember. Watson, the 1992 Hongkong Open champion, thinks Paul Azinger, Payne Stewart and Lee Janzen, surprise winner of last month's US Open, are all capable of gaining a psychological edge for the Americans prior to the Ryder Cup. His verdict of the course was: ''You have to play with a lot of feel and imagination. ''There are a lot of blind shots and a lot of shots where you have to fit the ball on to the greens. ''This is not a target golf course,'' he said. ''You have to shape your shots into the greens in the right way to be a success here.'' But, as opposed to others, Watson did not feel this diminished the chances of the high ball hitters. ''There are many ways to get the ball to the target, either along the ground or through the air,'' he said. And what about the prospects of big-hitting John Daly? ''The longer you hit, the more off line you can go. You have to back off on certain holes,'' said Watson. Typically, Daly responded in the way only he knows how. During his penultimate practice round he drove the green at the 421-yard, par-four fifth. Admittedly it was downwind, but the words 'backing off' are clearly not in his vocabulary.