There had been a heck of a lot of nail-nibbling, chin-stroking and handwringing about the formidable examination posed by Pinehurst in the build up to the US Open.

Phrases like ‘carnage’ and ‘war of attrition’ had been tossed about in wild abandon. Apparently, that’s also what The Herald team covering Scotland at Euro 2024 said about the Munich bierkellers when they tried to get a drouth-quencher after a hard day at the coalface.

It was a tough old shift too for many during the opening day of the 124th staging of the USGA’s flagship event.

Phil Mickelson, with six runners-up finishes in the only major that has eluded him, crashed to a nine-over 79 during a round that started with four bogeys in a row and was littered with debris.

Justin Thomas, the two-time major champion, also had a day to forget with an opening 77. As for Tiger Woods?

Well, the 15-time major champion, with three US Open wins on his cv, had inched his way to the top of the leaderboard in the early stages of his round. The sight of his name at the summit, even for a brief spell, generated great shrieks of giddy excitement.

Alas, the delirium didn’t last long, and Woods, who leaked five shots in seven holes around the turn, had to settle for a four-over 74 which left him nine shots behind the early clubhouse leader, Patrick Cantlay, who plodded and plotted his way to the top with a tidy 65.

Behind Cantlay, lurked the terrific, unflappable Swede, Ludvig Aberg. Making his first appearance in the US Open in this season of major debuts – he’s aiming to become the first debutant to win the US title since 1913 – Aberg put in a wonderfully poised, patient and polished performance over the treasured and testing Pinehurst No 2 course.

The 24-year-old, who finished second in his first major outing at the Masters back in April, hit all 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation as he signed for a 66. It was fine effort from the world No 6 who’s been a professional for only 12 months

“Not a lot to complain about,” said Aberg, who said that the first US Open he remembers was at Pinehurst in 2014, when his caddie Joe Skovron was working for joint runner-up Rickie Fowler.

“The times when you get out of position a little bit, you just try to get back into play as easy as you can and give yourself a chance for a par.

“I think staying very disciplined is important. There’s a lot of pins you don’t really think about going for.”

Pinehurst’s notorious turtleback greens and satanic run-offs that look like they’ve been mown by the devil himself, can mangle the mind but Cantlay’s canny, methodical approach reaped considerable rewards.

Cantlay, who had a good chance of a major breakthrough at the 2019 Masters, hasn’t really threatened in the grand slam events but feels he is heading in the right direction.

“We’re working on it,” he said of his efforts to improve that record.

Frenchman Matthieu Pavon also got working and finished just a couple of shots off the clubhouse lead with a 67.

Pavon, who won his first PGA Tour title in January, eagled the fifth and 10th during a welcome return to form after a poor recent run of results.

“I’ve been crushed by the few last golf courses,” Pavon admitted. “I played terrible at Quail Hollow. I played terrible at the (US) PGA. I played terrible at Memorial, too.

“I used to play slightly easier golf courses back in Europe, so on these types of courses I kind of have to adjust my game, adjust my thinking.

“Obviously when it’s really, really tough like this week, at least you know that sometimes you have to take away some pressure and some expectations and play smart.”

Sergio Garcia had plenty to smile about as he made the most of his late call-up to the championship with a one-under 69.

Garcia was in danger of missing out on a 25th straight appearance in the US Open when he lost out in a play-off in final qualifying in Dallas but got in off the reserve list on Monday.

He made the most of it. The super sub became just the sixth player to card a bogey-free round in a US Open at Pinehurst with 17 pars and one birdie.

The last time Garcia went bogey-free in the first round of a major was in the 2017 Masters, which he went on to win. A good omen? We’ll see.

“Obviously to shoot under par in a US Open, which is a championship that I love, it’s always great,” Garcia said. “To go bogey-free is even greater. I’m very proud.”