Dustin Johnson grabs early lead at Riviera
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Four days later, all that had changed for Dustin Johnson and Jimmy Walker was their positions on the leaderboard.
Everything else about the Northern Trust Open was entirely different.
In his last tournament round, Johnson put together seven birdies and an eagle to close with a 66 in the cold, wind and light rain of Pebble Beach. He was close, though he still finished one shot behind Walker.
In the warm sunshine Thursday, just down the street from Beverly Hills, Johnson blasted tee shots and made enough putts for a 5-under 66 that was good for a one-shot lead when the opening round at Riviera was suspended by darkness.
Walker was one shot behind, along with a host of others on a great day for scoring.
''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.''
That's the way Walker approached it.
He could not have imagined a start to the PGA Tour season quite like this one. He won the Frys.com Open in the season-opener last October for his first PGA Tour victory. He won the Sony Open last month in Honolulu by emerging from the pack with a string of late birdies. He won for the third time at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, building a six-shot lead and holding on to win by one over Johnson and Jim Renner.
And he doesn't seem satisfied.
Walker, who loves Riviera as much as Johnson, looked at the next tournament as just another tournament.
''It's four more days of golf,'' Walker said. ''You can ride the momentum of really good play. But everyone started at even and you just have to be like, `Let's go get it again.'''
He got as much as he could, closing with three straight birdies, finishing with a 30-foot putt on the 18th hole.
The first round was to be completed Friday morning. J.B. Holmes was one shot out of the lead, though he had to get up-and-down for par from a bunker on the par-5 17th hole to stay there, and still had the tough 18th hole to play.
Johnson would have seemed to have a big advantage by playing in the morning, without so much as a hint of wind. But it only got warmer the rest of the day, and the only difficulty from the morning was greens that weren't quite as smooth.
Nine other players were at 67 with Walker, a group that included Francesco Molinari of Italy and Torrey Pines winner Scott Stallings.
Walker was in the middle of the pack until his tee shot on the par-3 16th settled just over a foot from the cup. He nearly reached the par-5 17th in two to set up a simple birdie, then finished with one of his best shots - an 8-iron from 184 yards out of a flyer lie in the rough to the back of the green and a 30-foot putt.
It was a glorious day off Sunset Boulevard, and Riviera was in ideal shape - firm and fast, particularly on the greens.
The warmth meant a little more distance, such as the 349-yard tee shot Johnson hammered down the middle of 13th fairway, a slight dogleg left framed by eucalyptus trees. That left him only 97 yards, and he stuffed it. And on the par-5 17th - 608 yards up the hill, no help from wind - he reached it in two and had a two-putt from just over 20 feet. His only glitch was coming up just short of the green and in the bunker on the 225-yard fourth.
Johnson isn't playing a lot this season, but when he does, he plays well.
He already has a win at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai. He shared the 54-hole lead at Kapalua and tied for sixth, and then took off four weeks before returning at Pebble Beach. That was a good sign for Johnson, who said he doesn't have a good history of playing well in the first event after a long break.
''This time, I stayed with it. I worked hard at home,'' Johnson said. ''It was tough at Pebble because of the weather, and it was hard to keep your concentration.''
Life is bliss right now for Walker, who is going for his third win in California this season, starting with the Frys.com Open at CordeValle in October. The only struggle was a bogey on the par-5 11th when his tee shot just missed the fairway and buried in a small indentation in the long grass. He followed that with another bogey on the tough 12th, and then rallied at the end.
''I don't know what it's like for some of those guys that are winning 40 times and they have done this a ton,'' Walker said. ''But right now, enjoy it. It's fun. It's a good place to be.''