Debutant South African Justin Harding, who made it to the Top-50 of the World to earn an invite and sneak into the Masters draw, had two birdies in first three holes and he was 2-under through 11 holes.
Also at two-under was Aaron Wise, playing with Harding; South African Branden Grace through nine; China's Li Haotong and Spain's Jon Rahm were both two-under through four and Patton Kizzire landed the first eagle by holing a 70-footer chip from off the green on second.
Tiger Woods birdied the par-5 second to be one-under through four, while Rory McIlroy, a hot favourite this year, was even par with a bogey on first and birdie on third, but only a par on Par-5 second.
Thus far no player had gone better than two-under at any stage.
Amateur Takumi Kanaya started birdie-birdie, while Dane Lucas Bjerregaard, who had stunned Tiger Woods at the World Golf Championships matchplay last month, also opened with two birdies in first three holes. They fell back to even par and one-under later as the round progressed. Many of the other big names were due to start much later.
The field has seven Asian players and of them four are Japanese led by Hideki Matsuyama, Satoshi Kodaira, Shugo Imahira and amateur Kanaya. The other Asians are Thai Kiradech, China's Li Haotong and Korea's Si Woo Kim.
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