Sir Nick Faldo stood in front of the grandstand behind the 16th green, surveying a chip he was about to play from the thick second cut of rough, downhill to the hole.

It is the last kind of shot a golfer wants in the Open at Muirfield when the greens are as receptive as old concrete.

“Come on Nick,” came a call from the grandstand, “let’s have something special.”

“I’m working on it,” replied Faldo, trying to find something to celebrate on his 56th birthday.

But the three-time Open champion was finding it hard going in the first round of the 2013 Open, and the ensuing chip was not special at all, gaining pace as it ignored the hole, leaving the Englishman with a 20-foot par putt that also missed.

Two birdies on the front nine had been swamped by dropped shots by now, and Faldo trudged to the 17th tee with head bowed, mulling over a score that had slipped to six over par.

Faldo did not come to Muirfield with high expectations, having not played on tour for three years, since the 2010 Open at St Andrews.

Yet while he said after today’s round that he was “here for the walk and to enjoy it”, Faldo has never played golf just for the walk, particularly not at Muirfield, where he won the Open in 1987 and 1992.

“The golf course is tough,” said Faldo after signing for a 79, eight over par, and surely with a weekend off ahead.

“It’s hard work out there and the course is like glass now, and my practice and preparation has probably been the most minimal in the history of the Open.”

In the end, Faldo did produce something special though, and he saved it until the last hole, in front of the Open’s most expansive grandstands, which were up to half full to see Muirfield’s old master coming in.

His second shot had fallen short into one of two bunkers in front of the green, yet Faldo took a nine iron to send a low, line drive of a bunker shot skidding up the green to within three feet of the hole, to set-up a closing par.

“I’ve hit a few of those over the years,” said Faldo afterwards. “That was a hell of a bunker shot, wasn’t it? Even Tom [Watson] acknowledged that one; ‘a bit of class’ he said, so that made my day.”

Robin Barwick travelled to Muirfield with Mercedes-Benz, Official Patron of the Open Championship and a partner of three Major championships