Ernie Els, Justin Leonard and Soren Hansen hold the clubhouse lead on 281 as Lee Westwood leads the Open Championship by a shot from Tom Watson.
All three of the early finishers carded a birdie, par finish, Hansen's for a 67 and Els and Leonard for 68s to set a very respectable target.
An eagle at the par 5 7th for Westwood has given him the lead on -4.
Westwood started solidly with four pars as his playing partner Ross Fisher exploded out of the gates.
The soon-to-be father birdied the opening two holes but his challenge appears to have stalled with a calamitous quadruple bogey eight at the 5th and a bogey six at the 7th to drop back to +1.
Tom Watson started badly with two bogeys in his first three holes but has rallied well with birdie at 7 to sit a shot off the lead.
Last year's leading amateur Chris Wood is -3 for his round through 15 for a -1 total and could well better his tied 5th finish at Birkdale.