On a rare windless day at the Colonial Country Club, a group of high-profile players turned in low scores in an event that has attracted half of the world's top 20 golfers.
Stricker, Austin and Clark all had a 7-under 63, one shot better than Vijay Singh and two-time former champion Kenny Perry. Sean O'Hair and Jason Day were another shot back.
Among those at 66 were Justin Leonard and Paul Casey, who has climbed to the No. 3 spot in the world rankings. David Toms and Rocco Mediate were part of the group at 67 and those at 68 included Stephen Ames, Tom Lehman, Mark Calcavecchia, Jim Furyk and Adam Scott, who is battling a streak of six consecutive missed cuts on the PGA Tour.
There were 78 players at even-par 70 or better.
"I don't think I ever remember playing a round here where there's so little wind," said Stricker, "and that's why I think you're seeing the scoring that you're seeing."
Among the events on the PGA circuit, only the Masters has been played on the same course longer than has the Colonial.
Clark, who finished second in this tournament last year, is seeking his first PGA Tour win after collection almost $13 million.
Ian Baker-Finch, the 1989 winner of this tournament who is playing competitively for the first time in eight years, shot a 68.