Johnson fires 64 for first-round lead at Riviera event
Dustin Johnson was determined to get off to a good start in the Northern Trust Open, so for the first time, he decided against trying to drive the 10th green at Riviera and instead laid up with a 4-iron.
LOS ANGELES — Dustin Johnson was determined to get off to a good start in the Northern Trust Open, so for the first time, he decided against trying to drive the 10th green at Riviera and instead laid up with a 4-iron.
He made par, which never hurts. And then he took off.
Johnson birdied three of his next four holes, one of them with a 65-foot putt, and he kept bogeys off his card during a cool, gentle morning for a 7-under-par 64 to build a one-shot lead Thursday over Andres Romero and Kevin Stadler.
"Had good vibes going all day, and just hit the ball really good all day long," Johnson said.
Romero had good vibes going for most of the day. The dynamic Argentine had eight birdies to offset a double bogey on the ninth hole when he didn't listen to his caddie. Romero finished with four straight birdies for a 65. Stadler had the best score among late starters, opening with a 30 on the back nine. He played the final eight holes in 1 over.
Brandt Snedeker, coming off a runner-up finish last week at Torrey Pines, and Ricky Barnes were at 66. Steve Stricker had a 67 despite a three-putt bogey at No. 3, missing his par putt from 2 feet when he couldn't get the sound of a nearby jackhammer out of his head.
David Duval and Ernie Els were in the large group at 68.
Phil Mickelson thought he might be among the leaders. Going for an unprecedented third straight victory at Riviera, he was 3 under midway through his round. He finished with three bogeys over his last four holes — the exception was a 6-foot birdie putt he missed — and wound up with a 1-over 72.
"I had it right there with five or six holes to go, and I let it go," Mickelson said.
Mickelson took the Ping Eye2 wedge with square grooves out of his bag this week, although one wish was fulfilled when two players continued using it — Hunter Mahan and Seattle native Fred Couples, who had a 69.
The wedge is approved for play under a legal settlement from two decades ago.
Couples was inspired by the fuss from last week, generated mainly by Scott McCarron saying it was "cheating" for players like Mickelson to use it. He also was impressed that Mickelson, given his stature as the top player in golf while Tiger Woods is away, was willing to take any criticism by using the club.
"I said, 'I think that's strong, and I'm going to use one next week,' " Couples said. "He said, 'Man, I think that's great.' I get out here and he's not using it."
Couples said the Ping wedge is the best one he has, though he suggested he would look at others as he played more tournaments.
Mahan said he never considered anything wrong with a club that was approved under the rules.
Mickelson's reason for using the wedge was to call attention to the USGA's process of changing rules, which he has referred to as "ridiculous." Mahan's reason was different.
"It spins a little bit more," he said.
Even so, it didn't help on the 10th hole, when Mahan went bunker-to-bunker and made double bogey. Heading down the 11th fairway, John Wood, his caddie who found the old Ping wedge, said with a laugh, "If we had V-grooves, we would have had to hit four times instead of three."
Ryan Moore of Puyallup shot a 1-under 70 and former Husky Alex Prugh was even par through 17 holes.
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• The PGA Tour and Synchro Sports have reached a three-year deal for a Champions Tour event at Fontainebleau Golf Club in Boisbriand to be called the Montreal Championship.
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