Australian Adam Scott leads the British Open after carding a spectacular opening round of 64. Scott looked set to equal the championship 18-hole record after hitting eight birdies, but a bogey on the final hole meant he had to settle for a share of the record for the lowest championship score at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
Scotland's Paul Lawrie, American Zach Johnson and Belgian Nicholas Colsaerts ended the day one shot off the lead.
Three time British Open champion Tiger Woods finished three shots behind Scott after a mixed opening round.
Woods, a 14-time Open winner, was joined on three under by 2002 British Open champion Ernie Els, 2010 U.S. Open winner Graeme Mcdowell and reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson.
The build up to the tournament was dominated by talk of the playing conditions; Woods described the course as "unplayable" after his first practice round. However, the impressive opening scores showed the course had held up well to several days of strong wind and heavy rain.
"It was like a walk in the park today, and not like what we've been experiencing in the practice rounds," Scott told the tournament website. "I'm sure there's going to be some weather elements thrown at us the next three days so I'm just going to have to knuckle down and handle that."
"But I'm confident. My ball striking is good and I think I can get round no matter what the conditions are."
Woods, who last won an major in 2008, was leading the field before Scott began his impressive run to the top of the leader board
After seven holes Woods was four under, but he missed several birdie putts and dropped a shot on the 15th to end the day three back.
"It was a good start," he told the official website. "I hit the ball well all day but just lacked a bit of pace on the greens coming home. Every putt was right on line, they were dying off the front of the lip."
"I played practice rounds on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and they were completely different clubs based on the winds.
"I was shaping the golf ball both ways. Sometimes I rode the wind; sometimes I held it against it."
British hope Rory McIlroy endured a mixed opening round. The Northern-Irishman was going well on three-under par when he hit a double bogey on the 15th. His tee shot struck a spectator and rolled out of bounds, forcing him to return to the tee.
The former world number one picked up two birdies from the remaining three holes to pull himself level with tournament favorite Woods.
"It was an eventful last four holes. Everything was going along pretty nicely," the 2011 U.S. Open winner told PA. "I hit it slightly right and got an unfortunate break. I thought I did well to keep my composure after that.
"I didn't realize there was an out of bounds over there. It went twenty yards off his head. He could have headed it the other way!
"The most important thing was that he was okay and the birdie at 18 will make dinner taste very nice."
World number one Luke Donald ended the day on par after a subdued round. A birdie at the par four third proved the highlight of a difficult round. Donald dropped a shot on the final hole to end on par.
Defending champion Darren Clarke had a miserable opening round, finishing on six over par. Clarke has been out of form since his victory and, bar a birdie at the tenth, showed no sign of his title winning form of last year.
"I don't think you could really publish my thoughts. I was coming up to the last thinking: 'How the bleep did I manage to win this last year?" Clarke explained to the website.
Lee Westwood, third in the world rankings, failed to live up to pre-tournament hopes, as he ended on three over par. A double bogey on the third and five bogeys ruined the Englishman's hopes.