Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Miguel Angel Jimenez made strong starts to the 142nd Open Championship at Muirfield on Thursday, but Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose both struggled.

The 29-year-old Cabrera-Bello, a prolific winner in his junior days, carded a 4-under-par total of 67, one better than 49-year-old Jimenez.

Cabrera-Bello birdied the par-five 17th hole and parred the last to set the pace in the clubhouse.

In near-perfect conditions, Jimenez, a man known for smoking cigars during rounds and for his liking of red wine, birdied his first three holes and picked up two more to be 5-under at the turn.

Two dropped two shots on the back nine pegged him back but he holed a fine 10-foot putt for par at the last for a 67.

“I started very well with three birdies in a row and another at the fifth and then made a good par at the last from the greenside bunker,” Jimenez said. “I played very nice, very solid."

“The greens are just so fast but the weather is beautiful, the ball is bouncing fair and fast, we can’t complain," he added.

“I felt very comfortable this morning and overall I am very happy with my round.”

World No 2 McIlroy and US Open champion Rose, though, struggled with their games from the start.

McIlroy, who has said previously that he does not enjoy links golf, played by the sea, was 4-over-par through 13 holes while Rose was only one better off having played one hole more.

On the course, American Zach Johnson was setting the pace, reaching 5-under-par through 11 holes thanks to three birdies and an eagle.

England’s Steven Tiley was 3-under-par while former champion Todd Hamilton was in the clubhouse on 2-under after a solid 69.

Phil Mickelson, fresh from winning the Scottish Open last weekend, was 1-under after 13 holes while defending champion Ernie Els was level par with four to play.

Australian Peter Senior got things under way alongside Oliver Fisher and Lloyd Saltman, the Scot, who hit a quadruple-bogey eight at the first hole.

World No 1 Tiger Woods, chasing his first Major win for five years, was due out at 14.45 local time.

More In: Other Sports | Sport