In-form Johnson takes early control at Riviera

Thu Feb 13, 2014 10:08pm EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Combine a fast start to the season with a favored venue and you have a near-perfect recipe for Dustin Johnson, who charged into a one-shot lead at the Northern Trust Open on Thursday.

The long-hitting American, who has relished playing at Riviera Country Club since his rookie PGA Tour campaign in 2008, took advantage of ideal scoring conditions to fire a five-under-par 66 in the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second at last week's Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, mixed six birdies with a lone bogey to finish one ahead of 10 others before play was suspended for the day due to darkness.

Of the 15 players yet to complete the opening round, American J.B. Holmes was just one stroke off the pace with two holes remaining.

Among those who had already signed for 67s were Americans Robert Garrigus, Charley Hoffman and Jimmy Walker, who has already won three times this season, Italy's Francesco Molinari and Australian Matt Jones.

U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, playing his first event of the year after recovering from tendinitis in his right shoulder, shot a 70 while 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and former world number one Lee Westwood carded 69s.

Though four other players briefly reached five-under, only Johnson stayed there after reveling in a glorious morning of unbroken sunshine at Riviera where there was hardly a breath of wind.

The 29-year-old American birdied four of his first nine holes and picked up two more shots after the turn, along with a bogey at the tricky par-three fourth, to surge to the top of the leaderboard.   Continued...

Dustin Johnson hits out of the fourth hole tee during the first round at Riviera Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports