Conditions at Augusta National were conducive to low scoring at the first day of this year’s Masters, but the Irish trio of Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell could not take advantage.

The softer greens allowed players to attack the easier pin placements, but none of the men from the Emerald Isle chasing the green jacket made early ground.

McDowell was first out and shot a three over par 75, while McIlroy shot a two over par 74.

Harrington, the highest ranked Irishman in the field, also shot a 74 to go two over par for the tournament.

Tiger Woods made his much hyped return to competitive golf after five months out and carded an excellent round of 68 - the lowest opening round of his Masters career - to leave him right in the thick of it.

Leading the way after the first round is 1992 champion Fred Couples, who shot a six under par 66.

Tom Watson, Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson, Y.E. Yang and K.J. Choi lie one shot behind.

Woods, Ian Poulter, Nick Watney and Anthony Kim are on four under par.

Sandy Lyle, the 1988 champion from Scotland, shot a three under par 69.

The three Irish players will have to significantly improve on today's showing to make the cut for the weekend.