Alongside things like death, taxes and a snarl up of traffic at that pesky Plantation bit of the M8, another of life’s certainties is the presence of Nelly Korda in the upper echelons of a leaderboard.

Here at the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie, the world No 1, major champion and Olympic gold medalist continues to live up to all the hype and hoopla. Not that the hype and hoopla bothers her.

“I’m just going on like a little girl playing golf, enjoying myself in this cold weather,” she said with a grin. “Cold?,” chorused the Scottish golf writers who were all decked out in sombreros and Hawaiian shirts. “It is for a Florida girl,” she replied.

Admittedly, it was hardly tropical on the east coast but, on a fairly dour day that was as grey as a decommissioned battleship, Korda illuminated affairs with a five-under 67 to share the early lead with Madelene Sagstrom of Sweden and Korea’s Sei Young Kim.

And who’s that tucked in just behind the pacesetters? Why, it’s West Kilbride amateur Louise Duncan, who put together a marvellous round of 68 on her major debut. The 21-year-old, who earned her invitation to this week’s showpiece by winning the Women’s Amateur Championship at Barassie, was playing alongside the 2018 champion Georgia Hall and the young Scot simply revelled in the occasion.

A birdie on her first hole settled the jitters before an increasingly comfortable and confident Duncan conjured a rousing run on the back nine which included back-to-back birdies at 12 and 13 and a monstrous putt on the 14th for a thrilling eagle. “You don’t expect to hole those,” she said of that bonus.

Covering Carnoustie’s last four holes in level-par, while others were scribbling costly sixes and sevens onto their cards, was a mighty effort too. The importance of safely negotiating that hazardous terrain was not lost on the Ayrshire lass.

“I felt it was actually bigger than the wee stretch of birdies and the eagle,” Duncan said of that sturdy sequence of pars. “On the16th, I made a good up-and-down for my three. That was huge.”

The calming, shrewd guidance and promptings of her coach and caddie, Dean Robertson, aided Duncan’s climb into rarefied air. “He kept me level-headed, gave me a bit of support and made sure I made the right decisions,” she said of the former Italian Open winner’s input.

Korda, meanwhile, is now a cumulative 87-under-par for her last 21 rounds. Even Carnoustie couldn’t halt this American express.

With many coming a cropper on the Angus course’s famed and formidable closing stretch, Korda’s birdie, birdie finish stood out like a shimmering beacon. The 23-year-old had leaked a shot on the 16th, that treacherous par-3 that Tom Watson never parred once en route to winning his first Open in 1975, but made a telling gain on the daunting 17th despite a nail-nibbling moment with her tee-shot.

“I thought it was in the water so I was very relieved when it was just in front,” she said. “It’s definitely not the place to be stress-wise.”

Buoyed by that let-off, Korda plonked a 6-iron in close and made birdie. A three on that hole yesterday was such a rarity in the field, it should’ve been valued at Sotheby’s. 

A nicely flighted 8-iron into eight-feet at the last spawned another three to complete the late salvo and put Korda into familiar territory at the sharp end.

Getting familiar with links golf takes a bit of doing but Korda’s education continues. “The first year I played the Women’s Open was at Kingsbarns (in 2017), and I missed the cut there,” she said. “But the more I play links-style golf courses, the more I'm learning about my game here.”

Sagstrom, playing with European Solheim Cup skipper Catriona Matthew, certainly impressed the captain with a 67 which was bolstered by four birdies on her first six holes. Matthew herself, the Women’s Open champion in 2009, could only muster a 78.

Another Scot, Kylie Henry, had an “adventurous” day and posted a 71. She started it with a brace of bogeys but a haul of six birdies got her to four-under before the two-time Ladies European Tour winner leaked three shots on her last four holes. 

She was still happy, though. “Carnoustie was where I played my first Women’s Open 10 years ago so it’s got a wee special place in my heart," Henry said.