Campbell equaled Padraig Harrington's record at Sherwood Country Club from 2002. Davis Love III also posted a 63 in 2003 and those performances give Campbell reason to smile. Both Harrington and Love won the tournament the years they shot 63s.
Darren Clarke held the lead throughout much of Thursday's first round before he was lapped by Campbell. Clarke managed a 7-under-par 65 and is alone in second place.
Harrington posted a 4-under-par 68 and has sole possession of third place, while Kenny Perry is a shot behind at minus-3 69. Thomas Bjorn is in fifth place after he carded a 2-under 70.
Tiger Woods, the defending champion and two-time winner, overcame a sluggish start with three birdies in a row from the 11th. Unfortunately for the reigning Masters and British Open champion, he played the last five holes in 1 over par and finished with an even-par 72.
'When I had opportunities to make putts to get momentum, or keep momentum, I didn't make them,' acknowledged Woods, who is part of a group tied for eighth place. 'I hit some nice ones, but I didn't hit many fairways and I didn't hit many good iron shots.'
Woods, as tournament host, spotted Campbell nine shots Thursday.
Campbell birdied the par-5 second, then parred his next four holes. The par-4 seventh is where the birdie run began when the New Zealander kicked in a 3-footer.
The U.S. Open winner birdied the par-3 eighth, then drained a 25-footer for birdie at the ninth to make the turn at 4-under-par 32.
At the 10th, Campbell knocked his approach to 5 feet and converted the birdie putt. He holed an 18-footer for birdie from the fringe at No. 11, then, shockingly, made par at the 12th.
Campbell atoned for the 'mistake' at 12 with his second shot to the par-5 13th. His ball landed short of the green and hit a bank in front of a bunker. The ball kicked toward the pin and stopped 8 feet from the hole, where he rolled in the eagle putt. That got him to 8 under par and gave him the lead.
Campbell ran home a 15-foot birdie putt at the 14th to get to 9 under par. At the par-5 16th, Campbell missed the green left with his second. He pitched to 3 feet and sank the birdie putt to reach 10 under par, which put him on pace for a new course record.
He narrowly missed a 20-foot birdie putt at the 17th, but found the fairway off the tee at 18. Campbell pulled his approach long and left, but hit a solid chip to 5 feet. Campbell's par putt moved right at the last second and it led to a bogey.
That missed putt cost him a new course record and only gave him a two-shot lead after round one. Don't think you will hear Campbell complaining.
'I sunk everything, my chipping was great and my driving was great,' said Campbell, who posted top-6 finishes at this year's British Open and PGA Championship. 'Everything went my way, so I'm happy with a 63.'
Clarke collected two eagles and a birdie in his first five holes. He went bogey-birdie over five and six, then parred his next four. Clarke made a 4-foot birdie putt at the 12th and made it two in a row at 13.
Clarke parred his last five holes to secure second.
'I putted very solid today,' said Clarke. 'I holed a couple good putts for eagle and made a couple of solid par saves. The putter was basically on today and I made most of them.'
Tim Clark and Fred Couples are knotted in sixth place at 1-under-par 71. Woods was joined in eighth by David Howell, Fred Funk, Chris DiMarco and Luke Donald.
Jim Furyk and David Toms are tied for 13th place at 1-over-par 73. Colin Montgomerie, who won the Hong Kong Open last week, and Love round out the field at 4-over-par 76.