Bernhard Langer shot a 2-under-par 69 to seize the first-round lead on Thursday at The Senior Open Championship in Bridgend, Wales.
Returning to the scene of one of his most dominating performances, Langer was among only three players to break par in rainy and windy conditions at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club.
Langer bunched four of his five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the opening nine and added one more at No. 18 to move one shot clear of England's Carl Mason and Argentine's Mauricio Molina.
The 59-year-old German is bidding for his 10th major title on the Champions Tour. One of those came at Royal Porthcawl in 2014, when Langer finished at 18 under to win by a staggering 13 shots.
"It's a nice place to be," said Langer of his perch atop the leaderboard. "Very difficult. The wind was whipping anywhere from 20 to 30 (mph) and most of these holes are crosswind out here. ... It's just difficult to control the ball in the air because it gets moved around so much."
Langer won consecutive majors in May, earning victories at the Regents Tradition and Senior PGA Championship to eclipse Jack Nicklaus' record of eight senior major titles. He held the 54-hole lead at the Senior Players Championship earlier this month before fading in the final round.
Mason, 64, had seven birdies in his round of 70, but they were offset by four bogeys and a double bogey at the par-3 15th. Molina also had a double bogey at No. 17 but he eagled the par-5 18th to grab a share of second place.
Scotland's Colin Montgomerie and Tom Lehman of the United States headed a nine-player cluster at even-par 71 while John Daly and Tom Watson were among a group of eight at 72. Watson noted his round could have been a lot worse.
"The conditions were obviously very difficult with the winds blowing as strongly as it did and the two squalls that they had to deal with," said Watson. "My game was one where I turned about a 77 into a 72 today. I made a 90-footer and a 60-footer a la Jordan Spieth. ... You really had to add four, five clubs out there."