World number four Martin Kaymer carded a level-par opening round of 71 to finish six shots off the first day pace at the French Open in Paris.
The 26-year-old German, began from the 10th and had three birdies and three bogeys in his round.
Colin Montgomerie, was also level after two bogeys in his final three holes.
Richard Green and Englishman Graeme Storm lead by one shot at six under.
Storm, 33, whose victory in the tournament in 2007 remains his only European Tour title to date, came home in 31 and birdied the tough 484-yard 17th.
"It's fantastic to always come back and know that you've won around here before," said the former British amateur champion, a Walker Cup team-mate of Luke Donald and Paul Casey in 1999.
Australian left-hander Green, twice a runner-up at the French Golf Federation's flagship course outside Versailles, reached seven under through 14 holes, but bogeyed the 17th after a mediocre chip.
"I like the layout very much," the 40-year-old said. "This course offers a lot of difficult golf holes.
Former Ryder Cup captain Montgomerie, runner-up in the event three years ago, needs a top-five finish to secure entry to the Open, which starts at Sandwich on 14 July.
But he a endured a miserable finish to the first round at the 596-yard par-five ninth, when he ran a birdie chance four feet past the cup and missed the return.
Defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had three birdies in succession from the ninth but took five at the par three 16th and was also round in 71.
American left-hander Bubba Watson, making a rare visit to the European Tour at the venue for the 2018 Ryder Cup, had three birdies in the opening six holes.
However, the world number 12 drove into a bunker at the 18th and, after laying up short of the lake, three-putted for a double-bogey six and a 74.
David Howell, who was in the world top 10 in 2006 but is now ranked 251st, began with a double bogey and finished with a quadruple bogey eight in a disastrous round of 80.
Damien McGrane, Rikard Karlberg, Jaco Van Zyl and James Ruebotham were all disqualified for inadvertedly taking incorrect drops after hitting into the lake that protects the 18th green.