Fellow American Troy Matteson leads by one after an opening eight under par 63 - he birdied all the final four - while Woods is in a tie for seventh three strokes back.
"The pin is really tricky on 18. I thought I hit a pretty good shot in there, and it just barely landed over the bunker and trickled back in the bunker, left me on the upslope. I knew I'd be doing good if I could leave myself seven or eight feet for par, and it bounced and slam dunked in the hole," he said.
"The course is great. The grass is a lot like what I play back home. You've got to play your way around here. You can't just hit driver on every hole, you've got to make some decisions, you've got to hit some irons, you've got to hit some 3 woods," added Matteson.
The world number two, chasing a fourth victory of the season, stuttered with back-to-back bogeys at the end of the outward half, but came home in a five under 31.
"I would love to hop into an ice tub right now," said a sweaty Woods, who is returning to Malaysia for the first time since his triumph in the World Cup of Golf in 1999.
"I felt in control on the back nine. Towards the end of the front nine, I was hitting it really well. Just missed a couple of short putts on eight and nine but I was hitting it really well. Just continued it and it felt really good on the back nine. I hit some really good shots.
"Turning at even par, I felt like I just got run over there. It felt like I had to shoot something at least three , four under par on that back nine, and I happened to get one more, which is nice. It's going to take something like 20-plus to win the tournament, so got to be aggressive and go get it."
Matteson, twice a winner in his PGA Tour career, will head into the second round a stroke ahead of compatriots Jeff Overton, Brian Harman and Robert Garrigus.
"I got to play with Danny Chia and he was making birdies and we were just both kind of going back and forth. And then all of a sudden I made the eagle, basically drove the green on the short par four, and when that sucker went in, it was really exciting. It was just an all-around fun day," said Overton.
Garrigus, a winner on the PGA Tour, turned in 30 and hit a splendid eagle three on the 11th hole when his four iron approach from 258 yards landed three feet from the hole. "Gosh, that was probably one of the prettiest four irons I've ever hit in my life," he said
"I just smoked the four iron, hit it to three feet, made eagle, then made a great par save on the next hole. I think those three holes really kept the round going, then birdied a couple coming in."
Defending champion Bo Van Pelt, winner of the Perth International last Sunday, managed only a one under 70 and is down in joint 30th place in the 48-strong field.
Scotland's Martin Laird hit back from an opening bogey to return a three under 68.