WHEN you see the word Young in relation to St Andrews, you’ll no doubt have grainy, black and white visions of Young Tom Morris. 

In the Auld Grey Toun on day one of The Open, though, it was Cameron Young who showed that playing the Old Course can be, well, kids’ stuff.

Over a decade on from playing this hallowed stretch of linksland off the back tees as a talented 13-year-old, Young returned to the game’s cradle for an Open debut and mounted an early bombardment that could’ve been delivered by a squadron of B-52s.

On the parched, golden turf, the 25-year-old, who has had three runners-up and two third place finishes during his rookie season on the PGA Tour, conjured a thrusting eight-under 64 which saw him surge into an early two shot lead over Rory McIlroy. 

With rounds creaking and groaning beyond the six-hour mark, Tiger Woods hirpled in after 9pm with a 78, his worst round as a professional at St Andrews. It had been a long, long day.

It was a good day, though, for Young even if he declared that “I didn’t think I played a perfect round of golf”. But then, when is a round of golf ever perfect?

Having covered his first 12 holes in seven under, it looked like Young could be on for one of the terrifying low scores many had feared the Old Course would be subjected to. At the par-5 14th, though, he was 30-feet away in two blows but an unsightly three-putt scuppered the opportunity to make further inroads. A lip out for birdie on the 15th and a missed chance on the next were other ones that got away although Young did make his three on the last to complete a fine shift.

With mischievous pins – some were so tucked they could’ve been placed by a cosmetic surgeon – and firm, fast terrain that had the ball running like an escaped convict, Young harnessed the conditions to fine effect. Despite this early success, though, he’s certainly not taking anything for granted.

“I don't think I've figured that much of it out to be honest,” he admitted of the fascinating nooks and crannies of the Old Course. “You could play every day here for a year and you would just scratch the surface of what you can know about this place. There are so many humps and bounds and little nuances. I think we probably have seen about five per cent of what's out there. There's a pretty endless amount to take in.”

There are plenty of rivals to deal with too. McIlroy, the four-time major champion, is breathing down his neck after the Northern Irishman delivered a telling statement of intent with a 66. Kitted out in a yellow top that resembled the sun-seared grasses of the links, the 33-year-old marked his first Open in St Andrews since 2010 with a lively effort that was illuminated by a run of three birdies in a row from the fifth. A bogey on the 13th, where he tried to be “a little too cute” and left himself with a two-putt from 60-feet, was his only leaked shot of a decent day. It was also a fiddly day. Well, that’s how McIlroy summed up the Old Course examination.

“It's the fiddliest Open that I've played,” said McIlroy, who lifted the Claret Jug at Hoylake in 2014 but has not tasted major glory for eight, long years. “That’s the only way I can really describe it, just with all the slopes, undulations and everything. And fiddly hasn't really been my forte over the years. But, hopefully, I'm going to make it my forte this week.”

McIlroy found himself sandwiched between two Camerons, with Australian’s Cam Smith easing into third with a 67. One shot behind the reigning Players’ champion is the Yorkshire amateur, Barclay Brown. The last time The Open was staged in St Andrews in 2015, the lads from the unpaid ranks were a significant part of the narrative. Irishman Paul Dunne shared the lead after 54-holes while three amateurs eventually finished in the top-12.

Here in 2022, there could be yet more amateur dramatics with Brown, a GB&I Walker Cup player, barging into the early running. The 21-year-old, a Hallamshire clubmate of newly-crowned US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, sought the advice of two more major champions ahead of the St Andrews showpiece. “I had a good chat with Darren Clarke and Sir Nick Faldo about playing here,” he said.

Any particular pearls of wisdom? “Keep it out of the bunkers and get good at hitting 60-foot putts,” he added. The posse on 68 also featured the world No 1, Scottish Scheffler, with Fitzpatrick and defending champion Collin Morikawa back on 72.

On day one of this 150th Open, it was Young who conquered the Old.