The world No. 18 raced into an early lead as she won the opener 6-1, but Putintseva rallied impressively as she took the second on a tiebreak before edging the decider 6-4.
As Wozniacki herself noted after her second-round defeat in Melbourne last year, her progress at the Australian Open has been in steady decline over the last few years, per the New York Times' Ben Rothenberg:
Ben Rothenberg @BenRothenberg
Caroline Wozniacki last year at #AusOpen pretty much saw a 2016 R1 loss coming, but tried to will away the pattern. https://t.co/4DK9RA1lzd2016-1-18 06:47:51
Wozniacki, 25, has been the top-ranked player in the world twice, with stints atop the WTA rankings at the end of the 2010 season before a longer stint that lasted through the 2011 season until January 2012. But she has struggled at the majors and has only reached the final of the U.S. Open (2009, 2014).
The fact she's only reached as far as the quarterfinals at Roland Garros doesn't bode well for her chances of victory in Paris this year either. And she's only reached the last eight once, bowing out in the third round or worse in eight of the nine French Opens she's played during her career.
Thus, the usual suspects like Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova—who have alternated titles in the past four French Opens—will be the favourites for the second Grand Slam of 2016, while Simona Halep, Agnieszka Radwanska, Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber and Victoria Azarenka will also be among the top contenders.
Wozniacki is talented enough and young enough still to break her majors drought before her career ends. But it seems highly unlikely, given her historical form in Paris, that she'll do so this year at Roland Garros.
Such an early exit at the Australian Open certainly does not bode well for the season ahead.