After being handed the honour of hitting the event’s opening shot on his home course, the 53-year-old ran up a double-bogey 6 at the 370-yard first - one of the easiest holes on the course. But he stormed back to shoot birdies in five of his next holes before hanging on down the more demanding back nine and sinking a fine 15-foot par putt on the last to finish even.
The trouble at the first stemmed from him finding a greenside bunker with his approach then taking two shots to get out from close to the face.
He came out sideways with the second attempt and did well to avoid dropping more than two shots by then producing a lovely pitch from the left of the green.
Shortly afer he’d played that approach from just off the fairway on the left, a fan perched up in the stand at the 18th green, shouted ‘Go on Monty!’.
However, it also transpired that he’d been unsettled by plastic bags being taken off equipment in the grandstand above and he headed to the second tee in a decidedly dark mood.
With his two playing partners - former world No 1 Luke Donald and Marc Leishman, one of the two runners-up at St Andrews 12 months ago - both starting with birdies, Montgomerie immediately found himself three shots off the lead. However, by the end of the round he was ahead of his younger companions with Donald two over and Leishman three over.
The Scot even found himself sitting at the top of the leaderboard at the turn, to the delight of the thousands of spectators who’d also been up at the crack of dawn on a glorious morning on the Ayrshire coast.
Monty birdied the third, fourth, sixth, eighth and ninth to be out in 33, three-under, and sharing top spot with Korean Sanghee Lee.
In the first blow of the event at the iconic Postage Stamp, Montgomerie hit his tee shot to four feet behind the hole for a lovely 2.
Montgomerie was frustrated by a couple of errors on the return home but he also dug deep, saving a par with a magnificent 50-foot putt at the 13th.
Shots were also dropped at 14 and 16 but Europe’s former Ryder Cup captain kept his composure to par the last two for a pleasing start.