Catriona Matthew shot a 73 to lead the home challenge but described the 68 from leader Jeong Jang of South Korea as "absolutely amazing" after a first round ruined by cold, wind and rain at the Weetabix Women's British Open at Royal Birkdale.
Kent's Karen Stupples, the defending champion, had a great back nine of one-under 36 for a 74 and Laura Davies, the 1986 winner, was on 76.
In the final major of the women's season, Jang highlighted her four-under round with an eagle at the long sixth as she eased into a oneshot lead over Swede Sophie Gustafson.
Gustafson, the four-time European Solheim Cup player, has not had a great season in America, but she proved it is horses for courses by hitting form over a course where she won this title in 2000.
World No 1 Annika Sorenstam began her quest for a third major of the season with a 73, while 15-year-old American amateur Michelle Wie had a respectable 75.
Wie claimed the weather made it "the worst conditions I've ever played in".
"But it's the British Open and today we got the whole package," she said after a round which included a 56-minute delay due to flooding on the greens.
Playing alongside Wie, Matthew holed a 20-foot birdie putt at the last and was pleased with her opening-day effort.
"It's always nice to finish with a birdie and one over par was a decent score today in these conditions," said the Solheim Cup player.
Sorenstam, aiming for a third major of the year, was also troubled by the conditions.
"It was very, very difficult and so different from the practice rounds," she explained. "The par fives had easily been in reach in two and today they weren't. I had three layers of clothes and it was just so difficult to stay warm and dry.
"I left a few shots out there, but I was reasonably happy with my score and there's a long way to go."
After the mid-morning flooding delay, play was suspended for darkness with 30 players on the course. They will resume this morning.