The 34-year-old Swede joined nine other players in the past 22 years to have recorded an eight-under par 64 at Carnoustie.
It handed Norén a one-stroke lead in the bright but windy conditions, and on one of three host venues this week.
The reigning Scottish Open champion capped his effort in birding four of his closing five holes.
“There was a good few mistakes but it was my lucky day and it just seems that I play well in Scotland, so it's nice to come off the course here with a 64,” he said.
In July, Norén captured a fifth European Tour title in sealing victory in the Scottish Open on the Castle Stuart links course to the east of Inverness.
Norén recorded just 24 putts on the course that last played host to the British Open in 2007 when the Swede failed to qualify.
“I've played plenty of rounds in the Dunhill here at Carnoustie but never in The Open, so hopefully when The Open returns here I will qualify,” he said.
“The Old Course at St. Andrews is beautiful but then I like all the Scottish links venues we play.”
Norén has had a strong year in 2016. Along with his Scottish Open win in July, he also claimed the European Masters in September with a play-off victory over Australian Scott Hend.