Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman share the club lead on Matchday 1 of the Masters, but Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood struggled on Thursday.
Matsuyama, who could become the first Japanese player to co-lead a round at Augusta National, sits alongside American Harman at three-under.
Northern Ireland McIlroy finished the day with seven shots back to four above par with England’s Westwood six more.
Defending champion and world number one Dustin Johnson is two over par.
World number two Justin Thomas, US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and 2015 Masters winner Jordan Spieth are among the laggards on day one.
Matsuyama, the world number 25, birdied two with an eagle three par five-eighth and appeared to be on a bogey-less lap, before a lost shot at 17 brought him down to three under.
World No.50 Harman also carded a 69 in a round that included four birdies and a single drop shot.
Rookie Will Zalatoris is in a good position after signing for a 70 that puts him one head to two under par, tied with fellow American Webb Simpson and South Africa Christiaan Bezuidenhout.
Patrick Reed, the 2018 champion, is also back after bogeying the 18th, having climbed into a lead share with back-to-back birdies at the 16th and 17th holes.
It is the first major tournament to be played with spectators since the Open Championship 2019 at the Royal Portrush, with around a quarter of the roughly 50,000 customers typically hosted at Augusta National.
The last two Masters have given the iconic major’s lowest average scores in history, but firm greens and gusty gusts caused problems for some on Thursday.
Among those was McIlroy, who endured his usual slow start by scoring three bogeys on the rebound of five, six and seven, with his wayward approach on the latter even hitting his father, Gerry, in the leg.
The Northern Irishman is chasing a career Grand Slam and has started working with famed swing coach Pete Cowen in a bid to get back in shape after slipping to 12th in the world rankings.
He followed that streak of bogeys with a birdie in the eighth par-five, but dropped another nine-shot to hit the three-turn above, then found the water at 11 and 13.
The 31-year-old rolled in a four-foot birdie in the 15th par-five to pull one off and finished with three consecutive pars to post a four of 76.
American Johnson posted a record 20 under par when he won the Green Jacket in November and aims to become the fourth man to defend his title after Jack Nicklaus (1965-1966), Nick Faldo (1989-1990) and Tiger Woods (2001-2002).
He made the most of the mild conditions to win his second major title in the fall, but made a bogey-birdie start to his defense and was one of the top nine after losing a stroke in the fifth.
The 36-year-old, who had just four bogeys all week when he won, appeared to have started his round with a 17-yard chip-in birdie on the 11th and added another birdie to the par-5 13th for get one. under.
But he bogeyed 16 and then watched an 18-lip bogey putt from four feet, eventually signing for a two-over-par 74.
Johnson was playing alongside Westwood, who arrived in Georgia with his son Sam on his bag as one of the game’s in-form players, having already carded two second-place finishes in 2021.
But a double bogey on the third set the tone for the 47-year-old, who was seen this week as someone who could break Nicklaus’ record as the oldest Masters champion.
The former world number one is yet to score a major victory and faces a monumental task if he is to break that conduit, with six more bogeys and two birdies leaving him well behind at six.
Elsewhere, Ian Poulter made seven bogeys and five birdies to finish at two, with compatriot England and 2016 champion Danny Willett and 1991 Wales winner Ian Woosnam two further at four.
England amateur Joe Long, who tore a gluteal muscle while surfing with a friend in preparation for Augusta, struggled to make his debut and finished 10 above par.