Cheyenne Woods, niece of 14-time major winner Tiger, shot a five-under 67 to be four off the lead after the first round of the Ladies European Masters at Buckinghamshire Golf Club.
She is tied for sixth with four others, including Scotland's Kylie Walker.
German Caroline Masson and South Africa's Ashleigh Simon lead by three.
To qualify for next week's British Open, Woods, 23, needs to be among the top three finishers who have not already qualified for St Andrews.
England's Charley Hull, 17, is five shots off the pace after shooting a 68 and is tied 11th with several others, including Australia's multi-major winner Karrie Webb.
Another Englishwoman, 49-year-old Laura Davies - Britain's greatest ever female golfer - is level par. She is looking for at least a top-three finish as part of her bid to qualify for August's Solheim Cup between Europe and the US in Colorado.
American Woods is embarking on her first full season as a professional as part of the Ladies European Tour.
If she is unsuccessful at the European Masters, which runs from Friday to Sunday, she faces an anxious day in final qualifying at Kingsbarns Golf Club on Monday.
She said after Friday's first round: "I felt like I played really steady and that I hit the ball well, so overall it was a good day."
Hull came in for praise from Webb who said: "What a fantastic talent. Quite a big pairing for her today and she eagled the first hole.
"I don't know how many nerves were there but very impressive. I think she'll be around for a long time."