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|Erik Van Rooyen during a practice round at Carnoustie earlier this week - he shot an opening round of 67 AFP/Paul ELLIS|
Van Rooyen went out in the second group of the day at Carnoustie, teeing off at 6.46am (1.46pm, Singapore time).
On a perfect summer's morning on Scotland's east coast, he had five birdies, including at the opening two holes, and was on course for a flawless first round until he dropped a shot at the difficult 18th.
The 28-year-old, who qualified for his first British Open by coming second at the Joburg Open late last year, was two shots ahead of English duo Danny Willett and Matthew Southgate.
Willett, the 2016 Masters champion who missed the cut at this year's Masters and US Open, was enjoying a fine round, featuring three straight birdies from the fourth.
However, he dropped shots at the 17th and the 18th for a 69. Southgate's round featured two eagles, two birdies and four bogeys.
Scottish veteran Sandy Lyle, the Open champion back in 1985, hit the first tee shot of the day at 6:.35am but ended up with a four-over round of 75.
Meanwhile, reigning Open champion Jordan Spieth teed off at 9:58am and birdied two of the opening four holes.
A number of big-hitters have afternoon starts in the first round, including Rory McIlroy, world number one Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods.
Given the conditions, Van Rooyen will do well to hold onto his lead, and the record low first-round score at an Open here-- Sergio Garcia's 65 in 2007 -- could come under threat.