Tommy Fleetwood was inspired by the passionate support of the home crowd as he shot a first-round 66 to start his bid to become the first Englishman to win the British Open since Nick Faldo in 1992.
Fleetwood was born in Southport, around 30 miles north of Royal Liverpool, and loud cheers followed the world number 21 round the course as he rode a hot putter on the back nine to join amateur Christo Lamprecht at the top of the leaderboard.
“It was very cool and I think you can’t ask for more from the fans and the support. They were so great to me today,” Fleetwood told reporters.
“I am one of them, one of the guys that’s out there. I’m a fan of the game. I’m from this area. Yes I feel at home and to feel that support, it means a lot.
“You can easily put too much pressure on yourself. You can easily try too hard. But just having that support and people egging you on, whether you hit a good shot or a bad shot just pushes you on.”
Despite the glorious blue skies on the Wirral coastline, many of the stellar names in the field struggled at the 151st Open.
Back at the scene of his only British Open triumph in 2014, Rory McIlroy was one over through the front nine.
The world number two has been stuck on four major titles for the past nine years.
Masters champion Jon Rahm also took the turn at one over before his first birdie of the day at the 10th.
World number one Scottie Scheffler got off to a flying start as he was two under after four holes.
But the American needed a birdie at the last to move to one under for his opening round after dropping three shots in seven holes around the turn.
Defending champion Cameron Smith and Brooks Koepka appear to pose the biggest threat from the group of players now regularly plying their trade in the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.
But Smith finished at one over par after an eventful round that featured four birdies and five bogeys.
Koepka, who won his fifth major at the PGA Championship in May, is four off the lead after turning around a difficult start with three birdies in the final eight holes.
France’s Antoine Rozner birdied two of the last three holes to close to one shot off the lead.
Clark and 2009 British Open champion Stewart Cink are among a group on three under.
England’s Matthew Jordan hit the first tee shot at 6:35 am local time (0535 GMT) on the course where he is a member.
The world number 329 is just three shots off the lead after carding a 69.
“I’m kind of running out of words to describe it,” Jordan said. “It was crazy, mental, loud, everything that I could have wished for.”
Fleetwood said he felt very lucky to be able to play an Open so close to home.
“It’s an amazing opportunity and an amazing thing to have the chance to do,” he said.
Fleetwood reached the turn at Hoylake on one under par before three successive birdies from the 14th hole propelled him up the leaderboard.
“Nice to get on a run on the back nine really. I guess for any tournament, you just want to get off to a fast start. It’s not really been my strength recently. Started tournaments pretty slow, so to get something going today felt really good.”
The 32-year-old, who finished second in the 2019 Open at Portrush and tied fourth 12 months ago at St Andrews, has never won a major title.
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“As first rounds go, that’s absolutely the one you wanted, and to get off to a good start feels good,” he said. “To be in the clubhouse now, to have played so well, it’s a lovely feeling. I can rest up and start getting ready for tomorrow.”