PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Former major winners Vijay Singh and Retief Goosen struck a blow for the old guard on the PGA Tour as the two veterans surged into a tie for the early lead at the Northern Trust Open on Thursday.
Playing together in the opening round at a sun-splashed Riviera Country Club, the two seasoned campaigners fired matching five-under-par 66s in ideal scoring conditions with barely a breath of wind.
Singh piled up six birdies and a lone bogey while Goosen picked up three shots in his last six holes as they finished the round level with Americans Nick Watney, James Hahn and Daniel Summerhays.
Mexican Carlos Ortiz opened with a 67 while Germany’s Alex Cejka, Australian Geoff Ogilvy and American Justin Thomas carded 68s.
”I kept my ball in play, hit a lot of fairways, hit a lot of greens and when I did miss, I chipped it real close,“ former world number one Singh, who has battled assorted health problems in recent years, told reporters. ”It was a comfortable round.
”I‘m finally not hurting as much as I did the last five years. That’s a big part of playing good golf. You’re not hurting, you can go out and play and you’re comfortable.
“Right now, nothing hurts. The golf swing feels good, and I‘m happy to be playing,” said the 51-year-old Fijian, who has not won on the PGA Tour since the 2008 Deutsche Bank Championship.
Goosen, whose last victory on the U.S. circuit came at the 2009 Transitions Championship, has also been struggling for full fitness since having back surgery in August 2012 to repair a damaged disc.
“It was nice to play with Vijay,” said the 46-year-old South African, a twice former U.S. Open champion. “He played very solid too, and he putted really good. It’s nice that the two old boys played so well. We were sort of feeding off each other.”
Masters champion Bubba Watson, who won last year’s Northern Trust Open, was among the late starters on Thursday.
Editing by Frank Pingue