Pettersen was joined atop the leaderboard at Mauna Ocean Golf & Resort by local favorite Meena Lee.
Jeong Jang opened with a 1-under-par 71 and was tied for third place by Hyun Hee Moon, Joo Mi Kim and Catriona Matthew.
Women's World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa, who has already wrapped up Player of the Year honors, shot an even-par 72 and is tied for seventh with five other players. Ochoa posted two birdies and a bogey on the front nine, then two bogeys and a birdie on the second nine.
Pettersen struggled on the front nine as she started with a bogey on the second. She managed to rebound with birdies on six and seven, but more trouble loomed.
The 26 year old stumbled to a double-bogey on the par-5 eighth and followed with a bogey at the ninth to make the turn at plus-2.
Pettersen quickly rebounded with a birdie on the 10th and another on the 11th that got her back to even-par for the round.
After a pair of pars, Pettersen birdied the 14th. She closed with back-to-back birdies from the 17th to grab a share of the lead.
'It was very difficult with the wind gusting around, hard to get the right club without the wind changing on you,' said Pettersen. 'I'm very happy with 3 under today.
Lee played the back nine first on Friday and opened with a birdie on the 10th. She gave that stroke back however as she bogeyed the par-4 12th.
After four straight pars, Lee birdied 17 and 18 to make the turn at 2 under. On the front nine, she posted eight pars and a lone birdie on the par-5 third.
'Overall my swing and my shots were good enough for me to make many birdies and have no lost time,' said Lee.
Ochoa was joined in seventh by 2002 champion Se Ri Pak, Ji-Young Oh, Sun Ju Ahn, Rachel Hetherington and Seon-Hwa Lee. Shi Hyun Ahn, the 2003 winner, is one of seven players at plus-1.
Defending champion Jin Joo Hong struggled mightily in the opening round. She carded a triple-bogey, a double-bogey and four bogeys en route to a first-round, 9-over-par 81.