The unknown Australian was the only player to match the par of 71 in the first round on the windswept links. But he was given a painful reminder that the course intends to be the only winner this week as he crumbled to a second round score of 86 - 15 over par - to see his ambitions of finishing in the top 10 obliterated.
"I just didn't play well all day and kept getting bad lies," the 30-year- old from Queensland said. "Then all of a sudden you have a lot of score. I'm not too happy, obviously, but I've gained a lot of experience. What have I learned? Not to hit it in the rough. Pretty basic.
"I didn't feel worried about being the leader," Pampling continued. "I just got off to a slow start with bogeys at the first two holes and you can't pick it up on this course. I had a bad hole on the ninth [where he took seven] and a couple more - and suddenly you have an 86.
"Obviously there was a bit of thought about leading but after a start like that you forget about it quickly. I will always have the knowledge that I led the Open - but I'll always have the bad second round too."
Zane Scotland, the youngest competitor in this year's Open at 16, had the consolation of finishing ahead of the reigning champion Mark O'Meara after the opening day. The England Boys player from Surrey's Woodcote Park finished on 82, one better than the American, following a seven at the last. Yesterday, he went one better, carding 81.
Costantino Rocca, the man who beat Tiger Woods at the 1997 Ryder Cup and lost to John Daly in the 1995 Open play-off, suddenly reminded the world he is still around.
A second round of 69 - 12 strokes better than he produced on the opening day - gave the 42-year-old Italian something to smile about after a season when he has hardly been noticed.
But, Rocca says, a bottle of wine is the main reason for that. At home in Bergamo, Rocca had difficulty removing a cork and resorted to using a knife. Minutes later he was in hospital.
"I sliced the middle finger of my right hand. It was not nice and I had to have five stitches," he said. "I sliced the tendon and it was a month before I could even start to hit balls again. Then when I did come back maybe I tried too hard."
Rocca stands only 32nd in the Ryder Cup table at the moment, but with so much money on offer this weekend - pounds 350,000 of it to the winner - he could be two rounds away from sealing his place and setting up the possibility of a rematch with Woods. The former factory worker beat the world No 1 by a 4 and 2 nargin at Valderrama, having also won twice with Jose Maria Olazabal.
The abiding memory of Rocca, though, is still of him lying on the ground thumping the St Andrews turf after sinking a 60-foot closing putt to force that play-off with Daly four years ago.
There were no repeats of that yesterday, but a spectacular run of four successive birdies from the 12th brought him charging through the field from 10 over to six over before he bogeyed two of the last three. The run began with a six-iron to 10 feet, followed by a wedge to eight feet, eight-iron to 14 feet and nine-iron to eight feet again.
He is one person hoping the wind stays up. It was in similar conditions that he did so well at St Andrews and he said: "Normally when there is a strong wind I play a little bit better."Reuse content