ROYAL Troon has fulfilled the role of America’s playground in Open history and yesterday it supplied Phil Mickelson and the watching hordes with a surfeit of excitement.

Mickelson, the sunny Californian who uses the fun word more than Rab C Nesbitt employs another f word, had a putt on the last green to set an Open record of 62 for a round. Instead, his ball did a round of the cup, lipping out and leaving Mickelson frustrated yet ultimately consoled by setting a course record at Troon and matching 28 others for lowest score ever at grand slam.

His score conformed to the American theme of achievement at Royal Troon where the past six Opens on this patch of Ayrshire coastline have been won by our colonial cousins. The leaderboard last night was so American it should have been accompanied by a blast of the bugle as the Third US Cavalry charge was led by Mickelson, a veteran of five Major triumphs, including an Open in 2013.

His race to the front was worthy of a thoroughbred though he stumbled ever so slightly at the last. “It was one of the best rounds I have ever played,” he said. “That putt on 18 was a chance to do something historical. I knew it and with a foot to go I thought I had done it.

“I saw that ball run straight into the centre, I went to go and get it, I had that surge of adrenaline that I had just shot 62 and then I had the heartbreak when I watched that ball lip out. It was, wow, that stings.”

Asked why no one has ever shot a 62 in a major, Mickelson said with a smile: “There’s a curse.” So did he believe in the golf gods? “I didn’t, but I do now.”

It was an excellent day for several of Mickelson’s countrymen too. Patrick Reed (-5) and Justin Thomas, Steve Stricker, Billy Horschel, Tony Finau and Zach Johnson, all -4, chase their compatriot with only Martin Kaymer, at -5, breaking this American domination.

A day of pleasant sunshine and light breezes left Royal Troon vulnerable to under-par scoring and the American visitors largely made themselves at home even if big hitters Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson had to be content at shooting one under. The challenge from England was led by Justin Rose with an excellent 68 and Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland’s finest, shot 69, two under, to suggest that his form his returning with some strength. Even more parochially, it was fitting that the only Scot who is a member at Royal Troon should record the nation’s best score. Colin Montgomerie, who at 53 was required to undergo the indignity of qualifying, rose at 4am yesterday and ventured out to strike the first ball of the Open at 6.35am.

He immediately took at 6 but recovered to sign a card for level par, leaving him ahead of Paul Lawrie (+1), Russell Knox (+1) Richie Ramsay (+2), Marc Warren (+6) and the forlorn Sandy Lyle, an Open champion who shot 85, 14 over, matching his worst ever score at the championship. Ramsay’s round was made highly commendable by him leaving a sick bed simply to tee off. “I was just thinking, I’m not sure I am even going to play,” said the 33-year-old Aberdonian.

But if the leaderboard was dominated by the Stars and Stripes, the most relaxed moment of a tense day on the links was provided by an American who will find it tough to qualify for the weekend. John Daly, at 50, has memories of his winning the Open at St Andrews in 1995 and he has retained the sangfroid of the champion.

He plunked the ball into a bunker by the 18th green. But, barely breaking stride, he marched into the sand, placed his fag on the nearby grass, flipped the ball out to four feet, picked up his fag, took a drag, holed the putt, flicked the fag into the grass and shook the hands of his playing partners.

It may have been more Jack Nicholson that Jack Nicklaus but it was an amiable Daly cameo on a green where Mickelson later came so close to making history.