Australian Adam Scott set the pace with a course record-equalling 64 while a steely-looking Tiger Woods rattled off four early birdies in a composed first-round 67 at the British Open on Thursday.
The 32-year-old Scott, world number 13, conjured up eight birdies in benign conditions at Lytham to finish on six under par, one ahead of Scotland's Paul Lawrie and American Zach Johnson.
Former world number one Woods played beautifully controlled golf to birdie the first, fourth, sixth and seventh holes, getting his bid for a 15th major championship, and first for four years, off to a flawless start.
The American wasted further birdie opportunities before twice finding treacherous rough at the 15th hole and dropping his only shot of the day.
Scott made a steady start to his round but he found inspiration around the turn with five birdies in eight holes.
Three more in a row from the 14th put him in sight of a major championship record-tying 63 but he found the rough at the last and dropped a shot.
"The calm conditions today were surprising," he told reporters.
"It was very pleasing to start off with a solid round because that's what I haven't done at the other majors this year. The goal today was to play it like a Sunday - and there was no tomorrow."
American Johnson, U.S. Masters champion in 2007, made seven birdies but bogeyed the 17th and had to settle for a 65.
Lawrie, the 1999 Open winner, made three successive birdies from the third and picked up further shots at the 14th and 15th to set him up for a final flourish when a sumptuous iron into the 18th green left him with a tap-in for birdie.
Former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, inches away from a hole-in-one at the ninth, completed a solid 67, level with Woods, South African Ernie Els, Open champion in 2002, and U.S. Masters winner Bubba Watson.
Woods calmly birdied the par-three first, picked up another shot with a snaking 20-foot effort on the fourth and pinpoint approaches at the sixth and seventh set up further birdie chances which he converted with immaculate putts.
Stalking the course with unwavering concentration, he looked completely at ease until an errant drive at the 15th left his ball buried in deep rough.
After hacking out awkwardly into another patch of lush deep grass, Woods then produced a brilliant recovery shot to find the green and he narrowly missed a 20-foot putt for par.
World number three Lee Westwood birdied the opening two holes but the Englishman, wearing the red cross of St George on his gleaming white shoes, then double-bogeyed the third and he faded badly to finish with a scrappy 73.
Defending champion Darren Clarke also made a poor start with a bogey-strewn 76.
World number one Luke Donald is among the late starters alongside four-times major champion Phil Mickelson and Australian Geoff Ogilvy.
British Open first-round scores - 5th update
Early scores on Thursday during the first round of the 141st British Open golf championship at par-70 Royal Lytham and St Annes:
64 - Adam Scott (AUS)
65 - Paul Lawrie (SCO), Zach Johnson (USA)
67 - Ernie Els (RSA), Bubba Watson (USA), Graeme McDowell (NIR), Tiger Woods (USA)
68 - Jamie Donaldson (WAL), James Morrison (ENG), Thomas Aiken (RSA), Scott Pinckney (USA)
69 - Matthew Baldwin (ENG), Adilson Da Silva (BRA), Thongchai Jaidee (THA), Matt Kuchar (USA), Charl Schwartzel (RSA), Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN), Bob Estes (USA), Brendan Jones (AUS), Steven Alker (NZL), Lee Slattery (ENG)
70 - Jeev Milkha Singh (IND), Simon Khan (ENG), Kyle Stanley (USA), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (ESP), Vijay Singh (FIJ), Thomas Bjorn (DEN), Jason Dufner (USA), Martin Laird (SCO), Troy Matteson (USA), Aaron Townsend (AUS)
71 - Garth Mulroy (RSA), Mark Calcavecchia (USA), Greg Chalmers (AUS), Miguel Angel Jimenez (ESP), Bill Haas (USA), Davis Love (USA), Nick Watney (USA), Ian Poulter (ENG), Yoshinori Fujimoto (JPN), Tom Watson (USA), Aaron Baddeley (AUS), Warren Bennett (ENG), Dale Whitnell (ENG), Juvic Pagunsan (PHI)
72 - Todd Hamilton (USA), John Daly (USA), Raphael Jacquelin (FRA), Stewart Cink (USA), Sergio Garcia (ESP), Steven Tiley (ENG)
73 - Barry Lane (ENG), Rafael Echenique (ARG), Chad Campbell (USA), Johnson Wagner (USA), Lee Westwood (ENG), Dustin Johnson (USA), Kevin Na (USA), Daniel Chopra (SWE), Joost Luiten (NED), Nicholas Cullen (AUS)
74 - Sandy Lyle (SCO), Alejandro Canizares (ESP), David Duval (USA), Stephen Ames (CAN), Yang Yong-Eun (KOR), Justin Rose (ENG), Ryo Ishikawa (JPN), Steven O'Hara (SCO), Michael Thompson (USA)
75 - John Huh (USA), Justin Leonard (USA), Alan Dunbar (NIR), Brad Kennedy (AUS)
76 - James Driscoll (USA), Tim Clark (RSA), Darren Clarke (NIR), Hiroyuki Fujita (JPN), Sam Walker (ENG), Elliot Saltman (SCO)
77 - Tadahiro Takayama (JPN), Kodai Ichihara (JPN), Martin Kaymer (GER), Mardan Mamat (SIN), Grant Veenstra (RSA)
78 - Robert Rock (ENG)
79 - Michael Hoey (NIR)