Francesco Molinari delivered the joint-best round in the Scottish Open's 40-year history, shooting a flawless 10-under 62 to take a two-shot lead into the second day of the British Open warm-up tournament.
The Italian rolled in 10 birdies in his first 15 holes in calm morning conditions on the Castle Stuart links course, but missed out on a chance to shoot the first ever 59 on the European Tour by finishing with three straight pars.
Top-ranked Luke Donald looked set to finish close behind Molinari until he bogeyed two of his last five holes to settle for a 67. Instead, Alejandro Canizares of Spain was second after a 64, with Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark and Raphael Jacquelin of France another shot behind.
It was Molinari's second straight low-scoring round after closing last week's French Open with a 64 and finish second.
"I know it's not going to last for much longer," he said. "I'll just try to enjoy the moment."
Links courses have never been Molinari's friends. Only once in eight years as a professional has he made the weekend at a British Open, while his first round on links - as an amateur 11 years ago - will stay with him forever.
"I was living at St. Andrews and it was really windy and I shot 89 on The Old Course," he said, recalling how he beat 90 only with a birdie at the last. "I saw a different kind of golf than I had seen before."
With no wind troubling him in his opening round here and the rain staying away, the course was there for the taking. With steady putting and a barrage of consistent iron shots, Molinari duly obliged.
His round featured five straight birdies from holes 5 to 9 and matched the tournament record set by Paul Curry, who shot 10 under in 1992 when the event was staged at the par-70 Gleneagles.
"The roll I'm getting off the putter is much better and I just feel more confident on the greens," said Molinari, who is in line to claim a spot in Europe's Ryder Cup team for September's match against the United States - his stated aim for the year above winning a major. "Putting is the difference in my scores."
Molinari dedicated his strong start to his brother Edoardo, who is rehabilitating after surgery to his left wrist two weeks ago.
The best scores of the first round came among the early starters, before the wind picked up off the Moray Firth in the afternoon and temperatures dropped. Of the 78 morning starters, only 13 failed to make level par or better.
The best of the late finishers was Canizares, who birdied his last six holes under sunny skies to power into contention in second place.
Donald is defending the title he won here at last year's weather-disrupted tournament, which was reduced to 54 holes because of thunder storms and torrential rain.
Playing after a three-week break, he quickly hit his stride with six birdies in seven holes around the turn. However, he fluffed a short chip beside the fifth green to make bogey and also dropped a shot on No. 8 - his 17th hole - in a disappointing finish.
"Usually you're pretty happy with 67 but I'm five back already," Donald said. "But it was a good, solid round for me. It was perfect, ideal scoring conditions."
With the British Open taking place on the links at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's next week, Donald said he wouldn't object to conditions worsening over the next few days.
"I wouldn't mind a bit of wind just to get in that feel for next week. It's doubtful we'll have calm days like this," he said.
Former No. 1 Martin Kaymer was among a bunch of players to shoot 67 along with Donald, while three-time major winner Padraig Harrington and 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen signed for 69s.
Ernie Els made 70 despite taking four shots in the bunker in compiling a double-bogey 7 at No. 6 and Phil Mickelson birdied the par-5 18th to sign for 1 over - tied for 123rd ,having been given a late invitation.
The triple Masters champion arrived on Thursday morning after cutting short a family holiday in Italy to get some links practice under his belt ahead of the British Open.
Andrew Johnston of England added his name to the growing band of players to make a hole in one when he knocked in an 8 iron from 167 yards on No. 11.