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Golf roundup

Walk in the park for Johnson

1st-round leader has bogey-free 64

Dustin Johnson used an early run of birdies at Riviera Country Club to take a one-stroke lead at the Northern Trust Open. Dustin Johnson used an early run of birdies at Riviera Country Club to take a one-stroke lead at the Northern Trust Open. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Associated Press / February 5, 2010

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Dustin Johnson was determined to get off to a good start in the Northern Trust Open, so for the first time, he decided against trying to drive the 10th green at Riviera and instead laid up.

He made par, which never hurts. And then he took off.

Johnson birdied three of his next four holes, one of them with a 65-foot putt, and he kept bogeys off his card during a cool, gentle morning in Los Angeles for a 7-under-par 64 to build a one-shot lead yesterday over Andres Romero and Kevin Stadler.

“Had good vibes going all day, and just hit the ball really good all day long,’’ Johnson said.

Romero had good vibes going for most of the day. The dynamic Argentine had eight birdies to offset a double bogey on the ninth hole when he didn’t listen to his caddie. Romero finished with four straight birdies for a 65. Stadler had the best score among late starters, opening with a 30 on the back nine.

Brandt Snedeker, coming off a runner-up finish last week at Torrey Pines, and Ricky Barnes were at 66. Steve Stricker had a 67 despite a three-putt bogey at No. 3, missing his par putt from 2 feet when he couldn’t get the sound of a nearby jackhammer out of his head.

David Duval and Ernie Els were in the large group at 68.

Phil Mickelson thought he might be among the leaders. Going for an unprecedented third straight victory at Riviera, he was 3 under midway through his round. He finished with three bogeys over his last four holes - the exception was a 6-foot birdie putt he missed - and wound up with a 1-over 72.

Mickelson took the Ping Eye2 wedge with square grooves out of his bag this week, although one wish was fulfilled when two players continued using it - Hunter Mahan and Fred Couples, who had a 69.

The par-4 10th hole is among the most famous in golf, and one of the best tests among short par 4s anywhere in the world. It measured 303 yards for the opening round, with an emphasis on angles more than how far the ball is struck.

Johnson is ample long, but this time hit 4-iron to about 85 yards, a safe wedge to some 18 feet and two putts for par.

“I didn’t make birdie, but it was an easy 4,’’ he said. “And I wanted it to be easy.’’

He made the rest of his round look that way. He was on or around the greens on two of the par 5s, and received a gift with the monster putt on No. 12.

European - Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland opened defense of his Dubai Desert Classic title with a 4-under 68 to share a six-way lead in the United Arab Emirates.

Also shooting 68 were Alexander Noren, Charl Schwartzel, Jeev Milkha Singh, Edoardo Molinari, and Stephen Dodd.

Tom Watson shot 73 at his first tournament in Dubai.

Nationwide - Jim Herman shot a course-record 10-under-par 62 to take a four-stroke lead after the first round of the Moonah Classic in Fingal, Australia.

The American was the best of the afternoon group on the Moonah Links course, overtaking Australian Andre Stolz, whose 66 from the morning had led much of the day. Americans Jim Carter and Bobby MacWhinnie and Australian Paul Sheehan were tied for third with 67s.

Champions - The PGA Tour and Synchro Sports have reached a three-year deal for a Champions Tour event at Fontainebleau Golf Club in Montreal. The inaugural 54-hole Montreal Championship, featuring a 78-player field, will be played July 2-4.