All eyes were on Rory McIlroy as he began his bid to complete the career grand slam on Thursday, but it was Ryder Cup team-mate, Hampshire's Justin Rose who made a flying start to the 79th Masters.

McIlroy is looking to join Gene Sarazan, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods in winning all four grand slam titles by claiming a first green jacket at Augusta National.

But after a drive of more than 320 yards on the opening hole and an approach to 10 feet, the 25-year-old missed out on a first ever birdie on the first at the 23rd attempt.

The world number one then hooked his drive on the second into the trees and ended up in a narrow creek, but after taking a penalty drop was able to pitch out to the fairway and hit a superb approach to save par.

McIlroy was four shots off the early pace being set by American Charley Hoffman, who had hit the first shot of the tournament at 7:45am - following the traditional opening ceremony - and was four under par with two holes to play.

Rose was just a shot behind after birdies at the third, fifth and sixth took the former US Open champion to three under alongside Russell Henley, while debutant Danny Willett was two under after holing from 60 feet across the 13th green for an eagle.

Fellow Englishman Paul Casey was also two under thanks to birdies on the second and third, with 2014 US Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson one under par after 12.

Colombia's Camilo Villegas, who had two holes-in-one during the par-three contest before losing in a play-off to Kevin Streelman, was inches away from another ace on the 12th but the birdie took him alongside playing partner Watson on on under.

Earlier in the day, Player was able to claim bragging rights after joining Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer in getting the 79th Masters under way.

The trio formerly known as golf's 'Big Three' - they have 13 Masters titles between them - continued their role as honorary starters by each hitting a tee shot on the par-four first hole.

And it was 79-year-old fitness fanatic Player who produced the longest drive by around 10 yards from 75-year-old Nicklaus, who recorded his first ever hole-in-one at Augusta National during Wednesday's par-three contest.

Both men split the fairway on a hole ranked the third hardest on the course last year, but 85-year-old Palmer - who has been struggling with a shoulder injury which kept him out of the par-three contest - hooked his shot a short distance towards the ninth fairway.

With that the trio retired to the clubhouse and allowed the tournament proper to begin, with conditions perfect for the early starters.