DJ Sets Pace in Northern Trust Open


Dustin Johnson fired a 5-under 66 to take the 18-hole lead in the Northern Trust Open. The $6.7 million PGA Tour event is being held at historic Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.

On a sunlit Thursday in Southern California, Johnson recorded a lone bogey and six birdies - two of the latter coming on the final two holes, for a one-stroke lead over Italy's Francesco Molinari, Australian Matt Jones, South Korea's Sang-Moon Bae, and Americans Robert Garrigus, Scott Stallings, Charley Hoffman, Brian Harman, Charlie Beljan and Blake Adams.

J.B. Holmes, who at one point was atop the leaderboard astride Johnson but bogeyed the par-3 16th, is also at 4-under before play was suspended. The Kentuckian will have to complete his first round Friday morning after darkness suspended play. The 31-year-old, two-time Tour winner was among 15 other players who retreated to the clubhouse as nightfall fell on Riviera.

Johnson had an impressive outing last Sunday in the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, closing with a 6-under 66 to finish tied for second with Jim Renner, and only a stroke behind winner Jimmy Walker. Johnson feels he's on top of his game.

He certainly likes the weather in Southern California, as compared to the Monterey Peninsula, farther to the north and on the cusp of a cold-weather front that dropped inches of snow on neighboring Oregon. "It was cold, windy and wet at Pebble on Sunday. Here, it's not a lot of wind and perfect conditions. It's sunny and a really nice temperatures," Johnson said. "It's still golf, though. You've still got to adjust no matter what you're doing."

He's also taken a different approach this year versus seasons past. "I haven't played well coming off a long break, but this time I kind of stayed with it and practiced and never took too much time off. Just a little rusty, maybe mentally more than anything," Johnson told PGATour.com of his previous regimen.

"I've been playing pretty good all year, so the game's right where I want it to be," added Johnson, who at Riviera has enjoyed past success. The lanky, long-hitting South Carolinian has had two top-four finishes in his previous four starts and feels his game fits the layout.

"You know, coming off a good week last week, I'm definitely feeling good coming in this week and then obviously getting off to a great start today. Any score under par out here is a pretty solid round. It's a tough course, but it's right in front of you, so it's just a golf course that I really like."

Garrigus told PGATour.com after his 67 that, before the tournament, he began supporting a more upbeat attitude toward Riviera, a place he's struggled at in the past and where his best previous finish was a tie for 51st.

"I completely changed my attitude," the 36-year-old Idahoan and three-time Tour winner told reporters. "I just stopped telling myself that I hated this place, so to speak. But I convinced myself this is my favorite golf course of the year and I tell you what, this is the best shape I've ever seen it. The greens are rolling unbelievably good, and you don't usually see that on poa annua.

"So you know, I think with my attitude and the way the course has shaped up, I think everything worked out good today."

Defending champion John Merrick opened with a 1-over 72, a score matched by two-time Northern Trust winner, Fred Couples. The 54-year-old Couples, who only ventures off the Champions Tour for a select few PGA Tour events, couldn't get any putts to fall en route to putting up four birdies, three bogeys and a double on the par-5 seventh hole.

For all the scores, visit http://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html.


CBS Sports Official Partner