Tigers Woods has jumped into a share of the lead at the Open Championship with an eagle on the sixth, holing from 14 feet to move to three under par.
Korea’s KJ Choi quickly responded to improve to four under on the 13th, but Woods’ early form was already looking ominous for the rest of the field.
Ireland’s Paul McGinley, without a top-10 finish in 14 previous Opens, was also off to a great start with three birdies in the first four holes.
Woods teed off at 9.09am alongside 1999 champion Paul Lawrie and England’s Justin Rose on a miserable morning in Carnoustie, but Choi was making light of the cold and wet conditions.
Choi has won two of his last three events on the US Tour – including the AT&T National hosted by Woods – and moved into an early lead with four birdies in the first six holes.
His opening tee shot was not promising, a three wood described by veteran caddy Andy Prodger as “very duffed”, but the 36-year-old fired a long-iron approach to 22 feet and holed the putt.
Further birdies followed on the third and fourth and when he chipped to within inches of the hole on the par-five sixth as well, he led by two.
A three-putt bogey on the seventh followed however and saw Choi joined at the top of the leaderboard by New Zealand’s Michael Campbell – who led the Open by three with a round to play at St Andrews in 1995 – who had picked up shots on the second, fourth and sixth.
Sixteen players were under par, in stark contrast to eight years ago when Australian Rod Pampling was the only man to match par on the opening day, but then carded a second-round 86 to become the only first-round leader in Open history to miss the halfway cut.
Pampling looked like he still had some fond memories of the place however, birdies at the third and sixth taking him to the turn in two under par.
American Chris DiMarco, runner-up to Woods at Hoylake last year, was also two under after recovering from two early bogeys with a run of eagle-birdie-birdie from the sixth.
Woods took an iron off the first tee and his opening shot just trickled off the left edge of the fairway.
His approach finished 15ft from the pin but the birdie putt narrowly missed, unlike playing partner Rose who had already holed from 18ft.
Lawrie’s drive was sliced over the crowd down the right but again highlighted the difference between now and 1999. He found a good lie in the sparse rough and was able to find the green and make an opening par.
At 358 yards, the third hole is the shortest par four on the course, but the pin was cut just five yards over Jockie’s Burn in front of the green and was causing its fair share of problems.
The three players in match four took a total of 19 shots between them to play the hole, while Lawrie and Rose also ran up double bogeys after spinning their approaches off the green into the water.
Woods showed them how it should be done, firing his second well over the flag but spinning it back to six feet with the aid of the slope and holing for birdie.
Colin Montgomerie should have been alongside Woods on one under but missed from four feet on the first and then bogeyed the third after failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker.
American Joe Durant had struck the first shot of the day at 6.30am in front of a handful of spectators huddled under umbrellas as the predicted rain fell.
Playing partner Oliver Wilson set the early pace with two birdies in his first three holes, but the Mansfield golfer then dropped seven shots in the next five holes as Carnoustie proved it still deserves its fearsome reputation.