Lee Westwood made a brilliant burst around the turn to share the early lead when the Barclays Scottish Open began at its new venue of Castle Stuart near Inverness.
Certain to take the world number one spot back off Luke Donald if he wins on Sunday, Westwood sandwiched a four-foot eagle putt at the 607-yard 18th between two birdies.
He had already picked up a shot on the long 12th, his third of the day, and at five under par was alongside Irishman Peter Lawrie, who was off to a real flyer with five birdies in the first six holes.
With only a modest wind on the links bordering the Moray Firth low scoring was the order of the day, but Donald had to be content with covering his first nine holes in only level par.
Westwood and Lawrie, whose wife recently gave birth to their fourth child, were a stroke ahead of English pair Chris Wood and Danny Willett.
Wood is best known for his displays on links courses. As an amateur he came a brilliant fifth in the 2008 Open at Birkdale and 12 months later at Turnberry he and Westwood both bogeyed the last to miss the play-off between Tom Watson and Stewart Cink.
The 23-year-old has still to record his first European Tour victory, losing a play-off in Madeira earlier this season.
Willett was a Walker Cup team-mate of Rory McIlroy in 2007 - on the Northern Irish links of Royal County Down - and he too is searching for his first success as a professional.
He does, however, have an exempt place in next week's Open at Sandwich, whereas Lawrie and Wood were both chasing the one spot up for grabs this week. So is Colin Montgomerie, who has been part of every Open since 1989, and his hopes were still alive after birdies at the 10th - a 20-footer there - and 423-yard 15th.
Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington, Ernie Els, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell were among the later starters.