Charl Schwartzel, who has not finished outside the top five in seven events going back to mid-November, was in trouble early on when the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship began in Tucson.
The South African, seeded ninth of the 64 players, lost the opening two holes to American Russell Henley, who is playing the first World Golf Championships of his career.
Former champion Ian Poulter struck first against Scot Stephen Gallacher - winner of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on his last start three weeks ago - when he won the 393 yard fourth, while in the first match out Sergio Garcia was level with Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee after six holes.
The event was able to start on time at 7.25am, but thunderstorms were forecast for later in the day and there was even the possibility of snow at the desert venue.
It would not be the first time. Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer encountered such conditions during the 2011 final.
Schwartzel took the fifth, but then bogeyed the par three next to fall two down again to the 23 year old Henley, whose rookie season on the US PGA Tour began spectacularly last month when he won the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Poulter bogeyed the fifth, but a par on the sixth was good enough to take him in front for a second time and Gallacher then conceded the long eighth.
Fifth seed Justin Rose made a dream opening in the cold against South Korean K J Choi. He birdied the first and Choi bogeyed the next two to be three down.
Welshman Jamie Donaldson bogeyed the first to give Dane Thorbjørn Olesen the lead as both made their debuts in the event, while Garcia turned one up and defending champion Hunter Mahan stood two up after four on young Italian Matteo Manassero.
Poulter also conceded the tenth and did well to stay three up on Gallacher at the 601 yard next after his second shot was perilously close to going out of bounds.
Rose went four up at the fifth, but Choi had his first success with a 14 foot birdie putt on the sixth.
Schwartzel was still two down at the turn as the weather continued to worsen, while Donaldson was one down at four, England's Chris Wood level with Masters Tournament Champion Bubba Watson after four and Lee Westwood two up on Spain's Rafael Cabrera Bello at the same stage.