Tiger Woods needed just six holes to signal his intent to capture a third straight Open Championship at a cold and wet Carnoustie on Thursday.
Woods picked up a birdie at the third and followed that with an eagle from 14 feet on the sixth to send an ominous warning – as if any were needed – to the rest of the field.
The world number one has finished first-first-second-second in his last four majors and already looked a good bet to claim his 13th major title, edging closer to Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18.
Woods found sand off the tee on the short eighth to bogey but bounced straight back with a birdie on the next from 14ft – despite letting the club drop out of his hands in apparent disgust at his approach shot.
At three under par the 31-year-old was now in a share of second place, South African Retief Goosen moving top of the leaderboard with birdies at the 12th and 13th after an outward half of 34.
Goosen was then joined on four under by Ireland’s Paul McGinley, the Ryder Cup hero carding four birdies in his first six holes.
Korea’s KJ Choi had set the early pace with four birdies in the first six holes and was three under with two to play, France’s Gregory Bourdy setting the clubhouse target at one under.
Eight years ago only Australian Rod Pampling even matched par in the opening round, only to card a second-round 86 to become the only first-round leader in Open history to miss the halfway cut, but Bourdy posted his sub-par figure in only the third match on the course.
Nineteen players were currently under par, but Carnoustie could still cause some major problems despite far less severe rough than in 1999.
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 causing more than its fair share of problems.
The three players in match four took a total of 19 shots between them to play the hole – Davis Love also took a triple-bogey seven – while Paul Lawrie and Justin Rose also ran up double bogeys after spinning their approaches off the green into the water.
Playing partner Woods – wearing big gloves between shots – 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 had been in buoyant mood on the eve of the tournament but was again struggling with his putting, the eight-time European number one reaching the turn in 37, one over par.
Nick Faldo was faring even worse, Europe’s Ryder Cup captain five over after 12 the day after celebrating his 50th birthday.
Rose recovered from the double bogey at the third to lie one under after 10, while 1999 champion Lawrie was one over.