It could have been worse. A lot worse. On a trying, testing day over the Royal St George’s links, Robert MacIntyre’s relieved smile said a lot about the brutal nature of the examination.

A two-over 72 was by no means a disaster for Scotland’s lone representative in The Open Championship. His decorated fellow lefty Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, must have felt like hurling himself into the English Channel.

Playing in the match ahead of MacIntyre, the reigning US PGA champion endured a quite desperate day and his shattering 10-over 80 was the 51-year-old’s worst opening round in a major and his highest score since an 81 at the US Open of 2018.

Two months after his historic PGA conquest, Mickelson suffered the indignity of languishing joint last here. His seething, murderous glower at one or two pressmen who dared to ask him for a quick summing up could have melted the White Cliffs of Dover. The brave golf scribblers in question lived to write another day. But only just.

As for MacIntyre? Well, the young Scot was in a reasonably chipper mood after a spirited round of salvage and damage limitation. It had been a tough shift at the office.

“On some of those holes, I didn’t have enough ammo in the bag to get there,” he said of the formidable challenge. “At the par-three 11th, I’ve hit the longest iron I’ve got, a two-iron. And it’s not even close to reaching the pin. 

“I’ve then gone onto 14 and smoked a driver, smoked my four-iron to get pin high. I literally didn’t have any more in the bag. I said to my caddie when I walked off 13 or 14 that I felt like I was playing good … and I was three-over-par. I was looking at the leaderboard and thinking, ‘how am I getting close to six-under par?’

“I’m reasonably content. I felt like I played solidly from tee to green. It was blowing an absolute gale out there, more than I thought it was going to be. So two-over-par, isn’t horrific. I’m not out of it.”

MacIntyre had reached the turn in three-over but he knuckled down, girded his loins and kept plugging away in the face of a fierce golfing foe.

A good putt for par on 15 was then followed by another decent one for his only birdie of the round on the 16th. It’s amazing what an outpouring of frustration can do, as MacIntyre explained. “I almost knocked the one in on the 15th because of rage,” he reported. “I hit a great tee shot and it pitched clean into a bunker. I hacked it out and then holed the putt out of anger.

“There was nothing going through my head except ‘hit the putt’. It was the same on the 16th. I thought ‘just hit it’. When I play my best tee to green, I don’t think about one thing. I just swing the club and the ball takes off exactly where I’m aiming it. That’s what I’m trying to get with my putter, to go blank and hit it.”

Despite the trials and tribulations that are par for the course in this game, MacIntyre, who was sixth on his Open debut two years ago, relished the challenge.

“It’s a fight and a grind, but I enjoyed every bit of it,” he added. “You could have got pouring rain with the wind and then it really would have been carnage. But we just had the wind, so it was playable.”

The late finishers on day one also included Rory McIlroy, who mounted a valiant recovery to post a level-par 70.

A birdie on the first hole did not act as a catalyst for greater things as McIlroy sagged to three bogeys in a row from the fifth. In his well-documented major toils it was a case of ‘here we go again’. 

But McIlroy rallied and two birdies on his back-nine in the fading light would have made his supper taste much better. It would also help him nod off too. “It just makes you sleep that little better,” he said after a birdie on the last. “I’m probably proud. I got off to the perfect start and then made three bogeys in a row. 

"After that little wobble on the front nine, I set myself a target and to achieve it feels good."