Rory McIlroy shot a two-under-par 70 to lie five shots off the lead after the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship.
The world number one produced six birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey to stay in touch with Robert Streb, who fired a seven-under-par 65 to lead by one shot from fellow Americans Patrick Reed and Kevin Chappell.
McIlroy would have been even better placed but for a blunder at the par-three 17th where he found water from the tee.
His shot from the drop zone went within eight feet of the hole but the Northern Irishman missed his putt to drop two shots.
McIlroy also found rough from the tee at the 18th and then a greenside bunker and was forced to work for his par.
The 26-year-old four-time major winner was buoyed by an impressive record at Quail Hollow as he went in search of an 11th PGA Tour title.
He claimed his maiden victory on US soil here in 2010 thanks to a final round of 62 and he made the ideal start with three birdies in the first seven holes.
McIlroy also dropped a shot at the par-three second but, after reaching the turn at two under, re-discovered his touch to birdie the par-five 10th.
The Northern Irishman bogeyed the par-four 11th after coming up short with his wedge shot but quickly put the disappointment behind him.
He shaved the hole at the par-three 13th with a 27-foot putt before finding back-to-back birdies, starting with the par-four 14th where he got down in two despite finding sand with his tee shot.
A promising position of four under got him to within three of the lead but the double-bogey at the 17th took some gloss off his opening round.
"I was excited to get back here, I've got great memories of Quail Hollow," McIlroy told Sky Sports.
"For the most part today it was solid golf. I took advantage of the holes I needed to out there. I was a little bit disappointed with how it finished but it's a solid opening day.
"I'll get out there tomorrow morning with good greens and hopefully shoot something a bit lower."
One shot ahead of McIlroy was Scotland's Russell Knox, who produced a bogey-free 69 after starting on the back nine.
Ireland's Padraig Harrington was level with McIlroy after a two-under-par 70 which left him with mixed views.
"It was a strange day for me," Harrington told Sky Sports. "I didn't play so well but I hit a lot of good putts."
Veteran Stewart Cink raced through the field with the aid of three successive birdies around the turn as he finished five under, while Webb Simpson is handily placed on his home course after shooting 67.
Simpson, the former US Open champion who made six birdies and a single bogey, is a member at Quail Hollow Club and has finished no worse than 38th in his last four visits to this tournament, highlighted by a fourth-place finish in 2012.
This is the fifth consecutive year Simpson has shot 70 or lower in the first round.
"I kind of learned to just enjoy it, not put too much pressure on myself," Simpson said of playing at home.
"It was a good, solid day. I didn't make many mistakes. The one that cost me was 16. I just went through it wrong mentally and hit it in the water. Other than that, the card was clean and I played nicely."
Defending champion JB Holmes is also well in contention after a three-under-par 69.