There was a distinctly American feel to the top of leaderboard after day one of action at The 146th Open Championship, with Matt Kuchar carding his best ever round at a major - a bogey-free five-under-par 65 - to tie with compatriots Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka for a three-way share of the lead.
Kuchar, a seven-time PGA Tour winner still searching for his first major success, shot a blistering front-nine 29 after three successive birdies to equal 1991 Claret Jug winner Ian Baker-Finch's record at Royal Birkdale. He was unable to replicate that blistering form after the turn, but still managed to set a new personal mark and put himself firmly in contention.
Spieth looked a force to be reckoned with as he shot five birdies and no bogeys to emerge as the early clubhouse leader. He was two shots clear of Great Britain's Ian Poulter, who set the pace with an impressive three-under 67 in damp and blustery conditions. That was his best opening round at a major to date.
Koepka is looking to win his second title in as many months after equalling the lowest 72-hole score in tournament history to triumph at the US Open in June.
He showed no signs of rust having not played since that maiden success at Erin Hills and holed a difficult bunker shot for eagle at the 17th to match Spieth.
Paul Casey led the British charge with a round of 66 that put him alongside Charl Schwartzel at four-under. Joining Poulter one stroke back was Justin Thomas, Richard Bland, Austin Connelly and Charley Hoffman. Rafa Cabrera-Bello had to settle for a three-under 67 after bogeying at the par-four 18th.
Welshman Stuart Manley sits in a group with Bubba Watson and Ernie Els on two-under after briefly leading on his first ever appearance at a major championship.
Rory McIlroy endured a truly disastrous start to his pursuit of a second Open title and a first since 2014, bogeying five of the first six holes to move out to five-over. However, he managed to save par at the eighth and battled back admirably on the back nine to finish a round of two halves with a one-over 71.
Henrik Stenson, who beat Phil Mickelson in a memorable duel at Royal Troon last year courtesy of a record-equalling round of eight-under 63, began his title defence with a one-under 69. Lefty went birdie-less at The Open for the first time since 1999 on his way to posting a disappointing three-over 73.