Robinson, from Evesham, Worcestershire, who occupies the 115th and final automatic qualifying place for the 2000 European Tour, shot a six-under- par 66 at Ta Shee Golf and Country Club to earn a three-way share of the lead with Johan Skold of Sweden and Michael Campbell of New Zealand.
Woods began the defence of his title with a four-under-par 68, alongside Sweden's Marten Olander and Phillip Price of Wales.
Robinson and Skold both recently narrowly kept their Tour cards for next year, Robinson in unusual circumstances. The top 115 on the European Tour Order of Merit list retained their privileges for the 1999-2000 season, but Robinson was in 116th position with one event remaining, last week's WGC American Express Championship.
The Englishman did not have a start in the event and had resigned himself to the fact that he would have to return to the European Tour Qualifying School. However, because Sweden's Jesper Parnevik pulled out of last week's tournament, Robinson moved up one place on the Order of Merit. By being an absentee in Spain, Parnevik was ineligible for the Merit list as he had not played in the required 11 events.
"It was a major relief," said Robinson. "This is the best round I've played since mid-July at the Dutch Open. I played well in the early part of the season but played very badly after the British Open. My driving has been giving me trouble but my short game and putting have been quite good."
Woods, chasing his fifth successive tournament win and with nine victories in 1999 including the US PGA Championship, said: "I hit the ball very well today. I just wasn't able to get anything going on the back nine. I gave myself some chances and just was not able to make the putts. I burned a lot of lips but nothing went in."
Woods, who won the Classic last year when it was played in Thailand, collected four birdies on the front nine but struggled on the homeward stretch, not recording another birdie until the 17th. He gave that back with a bogey at the 18th and said: "I hit a bad shot and was buried underneath the lip, hit a great bunker shot to 12 feet and just didn't make the putt."
Nick Faldo, playing his first tournament since announcing he is to marry for the third time, fired a level-par 72.
JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC (Ta Shee, Taiwan) Leading first-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 66 J Robinson; J Skold (Swe); M Campell (NZ). 67 J Furyk (US); P Senior (Aus); N O'Hern (Aus). 68 M Olander (Swe); T Woods (US); P Price; 69 S Tinning (Den); P Lonard (Aus); R Wessels (SA); A Pitts (US). 70 E Carlberg (Swe); P Nilbrink (Swe); R Allenby (Aus); A Cabrera (Arg); E Els (SA); G Ogilvy (Aus); A Stolz (Aus); B King (Aus); S Hansen (Den); R Byrd (US). 71 R Winchester; P Marksaeng (Thai); V Singh (Fij); A Painter (Aus); A Johl (India); JL Guepy (Fr); T Sriroj (Thai). 72 M Wheelhouse (NZ); Koichi Nogami (Jap); R Backwell (Aus); A McLardy (SA); B Partridge (Aus); S Yates; R McFarlane; P O'Malley (Aus); W Smith (Aus); S Lyle; R Cuello (Phil); F Nobilo (NZ); J Randhawa (India); N Faldo; E Romero (Arg); F Lindgren (Swe); *Sung Yoon Kim (N Kor). 73 S Laycock (Aus); D McKenzie (Aus); A Atwal (India); G Hanrahan (US); L Parsons (Aus); S Bouvier (Aus); D Fung (Hong Kong); H Otto (SA); J Kingston (SA); P McGinley; J-F Remesy (Fr); W Riley (Aus); Wook-soon Kang (S Kor); M Goggin (Aus); C Pena (US); G Hutcheon; T Ichihara (Jap); M Lafeber (Neth). *denotes amateurReuse content