England's David Howell and Italian Edoardo Molinari made the most of perfect scoring conditions at Royal Liverpool to take the early lead in the 143rd Open Championship.

The 39-year-old from Swindon had the honour of hitting the first tee shot at 6.25am in bright sunshine and virtually no wind.

He began with a bogey after finding the right rough but responded brilliantly with three successive birdies from the third to move to two under.

Howell holed a monster putt across the third green to kick-start his round, added another birdie three at the next and hit two hybrids and chipped to two feet to pick up another stroke at the 528-yard fifth.

He briefly held the outright lead but was soon joined by Molinari, who opened up with birdies at his first two holes.

South African Dawie van der Walt registered the first eagle of the day at the 528-yard fifth to take him to one under, which was becoming an increasingly common score with Swede Freddie Jacobsen, Shrewsbury-born amateur Ashley Chesters, Australian Marc Leishman and Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat all getting to that mark early on.