South African George Coetzee showed what could be done despite the windy conditions at Royal Liverpool as he celebrated his birthday in style with a round of 69.
Coetzee, a Liverpool FC fan, turned 28 on Friday and gave himself the best possible present with a round which catapulted him up the leaderboard to sit just one stroke behind overnight leader Rory McIlroy.
With the breeze continuing to blow Coetzee put himself in a good position as few players in the morning groups were able to make an impression.
He began the day at two under and went to the turn in level par 35 but had five birdies coming home - including three in succession from the 12th - to ensure a bogey at 17 did not put a dampener on his day.
"This is probably, definitely my favourite major. It's always going to be my birthday week," he said.
"It's nice to play well, obviously, in a very prestigious event and to have my birthday coincide with it is also nice.
"It was quite a good feeling to look at my name and be at the top of the leaderboard."
"Obviously six under was a hell of a score yesterday (by McIlroy) and I didn't think it was doable today to get to that number.
"But when I made birdie on the 13th I was like, 'Well, all right, now I'm pretty close.'"
Sweden's Robert Karlsson and American Brooks Koepka grabbed early birdies to move to four under but some of the bigger names struggled to get going.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson was one over through 14 holes having had an eagle, a birdie and two bogeys.
World number one Adam Scott, probably McIlroy's main challenger on the first page of the leaderboard, dropped back to two under after a couple of early errors while playing partner Justin Rose finally got his round going around the turn.
The Englishman, targeting victory in a third successive tournament, holed from short of the ninth green for birdie and then chipped in at the 10th for an eagle to move up to two under.
McIlroy, not due to tee off until 2.27pm, is bidding to become only the third player to win three majors by the age of 25 to follow in the footsteps of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, who goes out 22 minutes ahead of the Northern Irishman.