American James Driscoll made the perfect start to the 141st Open Championship when play got under way in calm, overcast conditions at Royal Lytham this morning.

England's Barry Lane had the honour of hitting the opening tee shot and safely found the green, with Lytham being the only course on the Open rota which starts with a par three.

Driscoll and South African Garth Mulroy also found the putting surface in regulation before Driscoll, from furthest away, holed out for a birdie two from around 40 feet across the green. Mulroy made par but Lane three-putted for a bogey.

The first two groups were initially set to contain just two players each instead of the usual three, but Robert Karlsson's withdrawal yesterday reduced the field from 157 to 156 and left the first of 53 threeballs teeing off at 6:30am.

The last group out were not due to start until 4:11pm, while Darren Clarke began the defence of his title at 9:09am alongside Ernie Els and Zach Johnson.

England's Lee Westwood was in the next match out alongside Masters champion Bubba Watson and Yoshinori Fujimoto, while 14-time major champion Tiger Woods was out at 9:42am with Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia.

World number one Luke Donald was among the later starters with four-time major winner Phil Mickelson and former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy.

Lane quickly made amends with a birdie from 12ft on the second, but one of Lytham's 206 bunkers exacted a swift revenge on the 478-yard third.

The 52-year-old needed two attempts to escape from a fairway bunker on his way to a double-bogey six, while Driscoll - who had almost chipped in for another birdie on the second - also took six after tangling with heavy rough and a greenside bunker.

That left Japan's Kodai Ichihara and India's Jeev Milkha Singh sharing the early lead on one under, Ichihara having birdied the second and Singh - who won the Scottish Open on Sunday - holing from 20ft at the first.