With this week's victor guaranteed a place in the field at Augusta National next week, Andy Sullivan gave himself a chance to earn a Masters return as he opened with a six-birdie 68, while Luke Donald struggled to make much happen as he carded two birdies and one bogey in a workmanlike 71.
Former Open champion Stewart Cink, whose wife Lisa is battling breast cancer, made a welcome appearance at the right end of the leaderboard as he carded a 66 and kept a bogey off his card. Vaughn Taylor and Keegan Bradley both shot 67s to sit closest to Fowler.
On Thursday night, Fowler traveled 20 miles south to downtown Houston to throw out the first pitch at the Astros' exhibition game against the Cubs. But, compared to last year's final round at the Houston Open when he shot a 6-over 78, he said he is satisfied with the improvement. "If the mud was kind of kicking in, it ended up being a good shot".
Kang matched Fowler with eight birdies and was poised to share the first-round lead until a three-putt from 42 feet on the 18th hole and settled for a 65.
"The reason last week that I wanted to be off, get some down-time rest and spend time with friends", Fowler said.
"It's really hard", the 30-year-old said.
To say he's playing really well this week would be a disservice. "I love playing here".
"No. First day just finish", Kang said. "You just hope not to screw it up".
Scott has two caddies who are in a job-sharing program, and while Steve Williams usually works at the majors, Scott felt it was important for Williams not to go to Augusta National without having seen him play.
Jordan Spieth is among the biggest names in the field, and he enjoyed a solid start with a three-under 69. "I've got to play very well obviously but we'll give it a go". While Li opened with a 71, Wie shot a 4-under 68 to move one stroke behind leader Karine Icher of France before 35-mph winds shortened the opening day of competition at the first major of the year.