Sandy Lyle, The 1985 Open Champion, made two early birdies to top the embryonic leaderboard during the first morning of The Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex.
Lyle, who claimed his only Claret Jug at Royal St George’s 28 years ago, was going along nicely at another of England’s top links courses in Royal Birkdale, Southport, as the Scot followed up a fine three at the testing opening hole with a second gain of the day at the par three fourth to move clear of the field on two under par.
Birkdale, this week hosting its first Senior Open in the 27th staging of the event, was proving a worthy adversary during the opening stages, with only a handful of other players under par on a bright but breezy Thursday morning on the north west coast of England.
One shot back were a group including 2011 Senior Open Champion Russ Cochran, who prevailed at Walton Heath two years, and 2010 US Ryder Cup Captain Corey Pavin, who was putting together a rollercoaster start with three birdies and only one par in his opening six holes.
Also within a shot of the lead were European Senior Tour stalwarts Carl Mason and Sam Torrance.
Tom Watson, meanwhile, who won his last of five Open Championships at Royal Birkdale thirty years ago, made seven straight pars to remain level in a solid start.
The afternoon marquee group of defending champion Fred Couples, Senior Open debutant Colin Montgomerie and 1998 Open Champion Mark O’Meara were due out at 1350.