For a moment, around noon, suddenly it was floreat Australia! Lucas Herbert, a son of the goldfields of Bendigo, sat atop the leaderboard after an eagle on the 15th. Two holes later, on the fearsome par 3 known as “Little Eye”, he suffered the indignity of a triple-bogey 6, eventually to finish at even-par for the day. One local fan cruelly observed, “Looks like Little Eye’s given ‘im a black eye.” The sports-mad Liverpudlians are not known for their sense of compassion.

Jason Day, Adam Scott, Cam Smith and Min Woo Lee failed to get a decent grip on Hoylake’s links, all of them bar Lee ending at one-over after the first round. But, as they say in Bendigo, keep digging and you’ll find the gold.

In the Royal Liverpool clubhouse over lunch, the talk was of Rory McIlroy and little else. The hold this Irishman has over England, Scotland and Wales – or at least over the collective British golf mind – is extraordinary. Standing on the balcony after lunch sipping a coffee, I saw McIlroy stride past just a few feet away, heading for the practice green. He was alone, carrying a putter and two golf balls. No caddie, no putting coach. Just Rory. Amid the other players he started putting at the various holes, not using any absurd device to help, unlike many others. That, I thought, is true class. That is a champion. I do this by myself, his actions seemed to say. I don’t need another man’s brain or something made in a factory to teach me how to putt.

As if following this script, he birdied the second hole to launch himself at the course. That said, we should recall the Roman poet Horace talking of champions – the lofty pine is oftenest shaken by the wind. In all of golf now, McIlroy is exactly that, the loftiest pine, of whom expectations are, to coin a tired phrase, off the charts.

Observing play today in bright sunshine and steady winds, I asked myself the question: how does a player fire his approach shot at such dangerous greens? Is it perfect rhythm that’s required? Yes. But is there something else that produces not simply good shots (i.e. reasonable birdie putts) but more importantly at Hoylake avoiding disaster in the murderous pot bunkers?

Henry Cotton once remarked that the significance of the shaft of a golf club is that it connects the hands to the clubhead. Cotton was certain of the notion that golf is all in the hands. What he might’ve said more precisely is that excellent shots result from excellent control of the hands. But these days it’s body movement – and the virus of ‘golf psychology’ – that seem to bring in the big bucks for the gurus.

Yet golf swings differ, and trajectories vary. Some swings are Mozart; some are brutal but effective. Can one teach the hand technique? It’s largely invisible, which renders it something of a Holy Grail.

Once, daring to question my father on the subject, he simply replied, “When you hit the ball, make sure the club face is at a 90 degree angle to your target.” Perhaps that’s what the hands must ensure happens. It’s basic physics, as Dad often said. And as Cotton maintained, the shaft merely connects your hands to the clubhead. The more we golfers ponder that, perhaps the closer we’ll approach perfection.

One observer today noted the victory at Wimbledon last Sunday of Carlos Alcaraz, offering the opinion that with Jon Rahm, this year was Spain’s best chance to achieve the honour of both Wimbledon and The Open. The US has done this 12 times since 1930, Britain three times. Australia has done it four times, including 1956 when Lew Hoad beat Ken Rosewall at Wimbledon and my father saw off the field at Hoylake for his third Open victory in a row. Examining the lists of tennis and golf champions over this period and later – including the runners-up – you realise Australia has an astonishing record for a country of its population size.

Can our players find similar grit in themselves this week over the Hoylake links? Mox videbimus.

The day ended with the fancied players scattered all over the leaderboard. Tommy Fleetwood, a popular Lancashire fellow, carried the torch for Britain at five-under. A Frenchman, Antoine Rozner, sat up there near him. Noteworthy Americans such as Spieth, Homa, Clark, Reed, Koepka and Scheffler lurk only a few shots back. And the lofty pine from the suburbs of Belfast? A score of even-par probably left him filled with disappointment.

From tomorrow there will be rain and more wind. Doubtless the field will scatter again in more testing conditions.