Coming off a three-week break, Matt Kuchar might not remember golf feeling this easy. He opened with three straight birdies, all of the...
LOS ANGELES — Coming off a three-week break, Matt Kuchar might not remember golf feeling this easy.
He opened with three straight birdies, all of the putts inside 3 feet. He made back-to-back birdies late in his first round at Riviera. He made seven birdies, the longest putt from 8 feet, on his way to a 7-under 64 for a one-shot lead over Sergio Garcia on Thursday in the Northern Trust Open.
Garcia, making his PGA Tour debut after two tournaments in the Middle East, finished with two birdies over the last three holes even though he could barely see. Fog dropped in at Riviera over the final two hours after a day of warm sunshine, and Garcia could barely see the landing area in the fairway or the flags on the green.
No matter. He closed with an 8-iron to 6 feet on an elevated green at No. 9 for his seventh birdie.
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Brandt Jobe, returning from a serious neck injury last summer, put his experience to use on the course he played more times than he can remember while at UCLA. He ran off four straight birdies late in his round, only to close with a bogey on the 18th to finish at 66.
James Hahn, the 31-year-old rookie who shared the 54-hole lead last week at Pebble Beach, and David Lynn of England were at 67. Disney winner Charlie Beljan chose to finish in the fog after play was suspended. He closed with a bogey and had a 67. He had seven birdies.
The group at 68 included Lee Westwood and 53-year-old Fred Couples, a two-time winner of this event who feels rejuvenated when he plays at Riviera.
Couples played the final Champions Tour event last year and the season opener this year, along with a two-day exhibition. He hasn’t practiced much in between.
“So it’s surprising, but again, I can figure my way out around this course,” Couples said.
He made clean, powerful contact for so much of the day, even producing the longest drive of his group on the par-5 17th over Westwood and Bubba Watson. Couples was pin-high on the hole for a simple up-and-down, the start of three straight birdies.
Phil Mickelson scratched out a 71 and felt he was only a round away from getting back into the mix.
“A mini-victory,” he said of his round at even par.
Ryan Moore of Puyallup shot a 70. Former Husky Troy Kelly had a 78.
• Teen star Lydia Ko shot a 10-under 63 to take the first-round lead in the LPGA Tour’s season-opening Women’s Australian Open in Canberra. Colombia’s Mariajo Uribe was a stroke back. South Korea’s Jiyai Shin shot a 65. Japan’s Ayako Uehara and South Korea’s Mi Hyang Lee each shot 66. Former Husky Paige Mackenzie had a 74.