The score initially had Lee in a tie for 10th, four shots off the lead, before he fell back to a tie for 30th as the remainder of the field reached the clubhouse.
Two-time major victor and Texas native Jordan Spieth returned an opening 69, while three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson had to settle for a level-par 72.
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.
On Thursday, Rickie Fowler compared the nerves of throwing out an opening pitch at a baseball game to playing in the Ryder Cup.
Fowler, who opted to miss last week's WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, carded eight birdies in a flawless opening 64 to finish a shot ahead of Korea's Sung Kang, whose solitary bogey came when he three-putted the 18th.
"I don't know anything about the future, and whatever happens, happens", Kang said.
Trump not concerned about Mar-a-lago costs, criticism
Trump refers to Mar-a-Lago as his "winter White House" - but the estate is apparently lacking in basic security measures. . The White House hasn't reacted to the bill. "If he won't adopt that policy himself, Congress should require it".
"Unfortunately, there were a couple of spike marks and I hit those and kicked to the right", world No. 202 Kang said of his miss, adding that he "putted great today".
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.
"I was fortunate enough to take advantage of the par 3s, played them at 3 under, and I managed my way around nicely with mud balls all day as everyone else did", Fowler said.
"I've historically played better golf the second, third, fourth week in a row just after playing the week before".
Meanwhile, Stewart Cink, Jhonattan Vegas and Kyle Stanley are two shots off the pace on six under, while England's Justin Rose fired a five-under 67 to sit firmly in the mix and 2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth is another two shots further back. "Playing here really helps me to get sharp so that I don't have a day like this next Thursday".