Luke Donald boosted hopes of a first British champion at the Open since 1999 with a first-round 68 at St Andrews.
The 27-year-old Englishman, who played with legends Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, lies two shots off the lead.
"It was a lot of fun and an honour to be playing with those two greats," said Donald, who has failed to make the cut in his five previous Open appearances.
Scottish amateur Eric Ramsay matched Donald's score, but Lee Westwood was one of several Britons who struggled.
Donald finished seven shots ahead of Nicklaus and Watson, who boast eight Open titles between them, and two behind leader Tiger Woods.
He carded five birdies, picking up the only bogey of his round at the 11th.
"I don't think there could have been any more distracting groups than that one, so I'm proud of how I handled it," he said.
Qualifier Ramsay, from Carnoustie, used his knowledge of the Old Course to spring one of the surprises of the day.
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell and Englishman Simon Khan also eclipsed some of his more illustrious compatriots with a three-under 69.
Westwood, who was fourth last year, pitched into the Swilcan Burn at the first hole for a double-bogey six on his way to a four-over 76.
"You want to get off to a good start anywhere but knocking it into the stream at the first is not the way to do it. I just wasn't on my game," he said.
Colin Montgomerie suffered a similar fate with his drive at the first, but recovered from the resultant bogey to shoot 71.
"That's the first time I have done that in 20 years of play, " said the Scot.
"Getting a 71 is OK. It gives me something to work on - a couple of birdies and suddenly you are three under."
England's Steve Webster shared the lead with Woods on six under after two eagles in his first nine holes, but he dropped five shots on his way home and ended on one under.
"I really enjoyed seeing my name up there on the leaderboard, I was wondering how long it was going to stay up there.
"It all seemed to change as soon as I hit my tee shot on the 10th. It bounced straight right into the bunker and I hit eight bunkers in a row from there," he said.
England's Simon Dyson, who hit the first shot of the day at 0630 BST, went round in 70 to finish on two under in a group including fellow Englishmen Ian Poulter and Peter Baker, and Ireland's Paul McGinley.
Poulter, wearing a pair of trousers designed in a BBC Sport Academy competition, carded three birdies on the last nine holes despite facing the worst of the opening day's weather.
"I hung in there and made some birdies from tough positions," he said.
Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke and Welshman Ian Woosnam could only shoot one-over 73s.
Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle were a shot further back while Paul Casey finished on three over and Brian Davis five over.
"It is very difficult to get the thing close to the hole," said three-times champion Faldo.
"The breeze, the spin and the slopes on the back nine with the new pin positions are very difficult."