Kuchar Gets Rolling at Riviera

Matt Kuchar carded a 7-under 64 to assume the first-round lead in the Northern Trust Open. The $6.6 million PGA Tour event began Thursday at famed Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.

The 34-year-old Kuchar got rolling quickly with birdies on his first three holes and adding another on the par-4 seventh to make the turn in 4-under 31. The Georgia resident added three more birdies on the back for a one-stroke lead over Sergio Garcia and two over Brandt Jobe.

Kuchar was happy with his performance. "Always fun to have bogey-free days, especially around this golf course," Kuchar told PGATour.com. "Just drove it well today, which is a big key around here.

"I got off to a hot start," he added. "And I was playing solid golf. I had a couple of days work with my instructor, Chris O'Connell and it was one of those things where I was excited to get going.

"The greens are pretty tricky and pretty firm this year, so coming out of the rough it's difficult to get a ball to stop close to the hole. Coming out of the fairway is a key thing to play some good golf, so we are driving it well and played some nice golf today."

England's David Lynn, Charlie Beljan and Tour rookie James Hahn carded 67s. Fred Couples was among several players who carded 3-under 68s. Playing in his 31st tournament at Riviera - his second-favorite course after only Augusta National, the 53-year-old Seattle native posted five birdies and two bogeys to get off to a promising start.

"I can figure my way out around this course," said Couples, who won at Riviera in 1990 and 1992, with the second title the same year he donned a green jacket after winning the Masters at Augusta National. Despite being 30 years older than some of the younger guns on the PGA Tour, Couples can still hit the ball with the best of them. On Thursday he averaged over 293 yards off the tee.

He said later he wasn't sure what to expect though after playing in Wednesday's pro-am. "If you watched yesterday, I was being out-driven by my amateur team," the popular player known as "Boom-Boom" told PGATour.com. "And then today, I just felt a little rhythm and started driving it a little firmer and solider, and the ball was going well and I just kept swinging hard."

One of his playing partners, England's Lee Westwood, also shot 68. The other member of the threesome, Bubba Watson, had a rough outing, carding a 77 that involved six bogeys and 12 pars.

Another of the tournament's headliners, Phil Mickelson, shot an even-par 71. Defending champion Bill Haas posted a 70.

Two players - Chris Stroud and Sean O'Hair - pulled out of the tournament after completing their first rounds. Stroud, who shot 76, cited a wrist injury for withdrawing, while O'Hair had an 83 and gave no reason for his early exit. Stephen Ames withdrew before the start of the opening round, and Steve Marino was DQ-ed after shooting a 78.

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