Rory McIlroy lit up Augusta with a stunning 65 and was joined late on by Alvaro Quiros for a share of a two-shot lead after the first round of the Masters.
The Northern Irishman and the Spaniard raced to seven under ahead of South Korean pair Yang Yong-Eun and KJ Choi.
American duo Matt Kuchar and Ricky Barnes are four under with England's Ross Fisher and Spain's Sergio Garcia in a group on three under alongside Gary Woodland, Brandt Snedeker, Charl Schwartzel, 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman and 2006 US Open winner Geoff Ogilvy.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson ended two under, while former world number one Tiger Woods carded a one-under 71 and 2010 runner-up Lee Westwood fired a 72.
England's Westwood, who was clearly disappointed with his putting, said: "It's how my game is at the moment.
"If you can't hole it out from four feet, you're going to struggle, aren't you?"
Luke Donald, bidding to become the first player to win the curtain-raising par-three tournament and the Masters in the same year, also ended level par with fellow Englishmen Paul Casey two under, Justin Rose one over and Ian Poulter two over.
Of the fancied Americans, Nick Watney shot 72, Bubba Watson carded 73 and Dustin Johnson ended with a two-over 74 alongside Northern Ireland's US Open champion Graeme McDowell and Scotland's Martin Laird.
"As long as you are not over 74 you're still in the tournament," said BBC TV commentator Ken Brown. "It's an uphill climb but it's still not impossible."
World number one Martin Kaymer, who has yet to make the cut in three visits to Augusta, amassed a six-over 78.
The 21-year-old McIlroy, who is playing in his third Masters, is the youngest ever first-round leader, beating the previous best of Seve Ballesteros who was 23 when he led in 1980.
The 2010 European Ryder Cup star birdied the second, third and fourth holes and added a further birdie at the ninth to go out in 32. He picked up more shots at the 11th, 14th and 15th and missed an eight-footer for birdie on the last.
McIlroy finished 20th on his Masters debut in 2009 and missed the cut last year, but he has finished in the top three in three of the last five majors.
He led the Open after a sizzling 63 in the first round at St Andrews last year but he followed it with a second-round 80 on a day when a vicious wind forced a suspension in play.
But after carding his first round in the 60s at Augusta the world number nine has vowed to apply the lessons he learned at the home of golf.
"I'm not taking anything for granted," he said. "It's a good start but that's all it is. I didn't really put a foot wrong - that's what you need to do here and that's what you need to do in major championships is limit your mistakes.
"Today I didn't have any. I felt I made a good up-and-down at the first to sort of get my round going and after that I played really solid golf, hitting the ball where I wanted to and picking my targets and committing to them.
"I know better than anyone else what can happen after you lead in the first round of a major. St Andrews is going to be big on my mind but I've learned from it and I'll be better prepared to go out and shoot a good score."
The big-hitting Quiros, 28, bettered his previous best round at Augusta by 10 shots after making steady progress through his round and ending with a birdie on the 18th.
Despite being known for his lengthy drives, Quiros conceded: "Obviously, the best club in my bag was the putter."
Earlier, McIlroy was in danger of being upstaged by Yang, known as YE, who became the first Asian-born male to win a major when he landed the 2008 USPGA title. At that tournament he also became the first to overhaul Woods on the final day of a major tournament.
The 39-year-old Yang drew level at seven under with McIlroy after 16 holes but then bogeyed the final two, while the 40-year-old Choi, who tied for fourth last year, climbed to five under after firing five birdies in the last six holes.
"It's typical of a Korean course, so if you are on a good day, I think it's to our advantage," said Yang who finished in a tie for eighth last year.
"I saw myself in the leaderboard tied with the leader and I guess I got a little bit overzealous in the last two holes.
"It's a bit disappointing to finish off two bogeys in a row and go back down two behind the leader, but at the same time there is still a lot of golf left."
Choi, who birdied all four par fives, added through a translator: "You have to really focus to be able to hit the greens.
"They are very sloping. I feel comfortable because I know where to hit the ball on the green and where to attack the fairways."
World number three Mickelson, bidding for a fourth Green Jacket, struggled off the tee and was forced to rely on his short game to get him out of trouble.
"I missed it in spots I could get up and down. I scrambled well," said Mickelson, who opted to go with just one driver despite saying earlier in the week he would carry two with him.
"I let four or five birdie opportunities slide so I'm going to have to capitalise on those. It's just OK I didn't shoot myself out of it but I didn't make up ground on the field."
Four-time champion Woods, who has been struggling to bed down a swing revamp, picked up just three birdies but was encouraged that his putting, once one of his greatest strengths, was coming back to form.
"I hit a lot of beautiful putts," said Woods, who came fourth last year after five months out of the game. "And they were just skirting the edge, so hopefully they will start going in."
Despite being six shots behind McIlroy, Woods was optimistic for the rest of the week.
"I would rather be where Rory's at. But, hey, it's a long way to go," said Woods, who won the last of his 14 major titles in 2008 and has not tasted success in any tournament since November 2009.
"We have a long grind ahead of us. The temperature's supposed to warm up and I'm sure they will start making the pins a little more difficult as the week goes on.
"I'm right there in the ball game. We've got a lot of golf ahead of us."