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 final 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.
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.
Conditions have rarely looked this good at Riviera, from the firm grass below the feet and the sun-filled sky above them — at least until the final few hours.
It felt like a working vacation, and it’s the latter Kuchar knows so well.
After opening with three straight weeks on the PGA Tour, which featured a pair of top 10s, he spent a week in Palm Springs and then took his family to Hawaii.
Eighteen players failed to finish the round, including ex-Wofford golfer William McGirt. They were to return this morning to finish, and then immediately start the second round.
Teen star leads Women’s Australian Open
At Canberra, Australia, 15-year-old amateur Lydia Ko shot a 10-under 63 to take the first-round lead in the LPGA Tour’s season-opening Women’s Australian Open.
Colombia’s Mariajo Uribe was a stroke back while South Korea’s Jiyai Shin was two behind after a 65.