By Seth Kerr
GolfWRX Staff Writer
Phil Mickelson shot 5-under to lead the first round of the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Mickelson continued his hot play coming off his victory at Pebble Beach where he bested Tiger Woods by 11 strokes in the final round.
The leader board is bunched at the top with 23 players within four shots of the lead.
The first round was suspended due to darkness with a number of players still having holes to finish. Rory Sabbatini and Troy Matteson are both 2-under with holes remaining to play. The first round will continue at 7 a.m. PST Friday with the second round starting thereafter.
Riviera showed its teeth with strong winds making the course’s small greens all the more difficult to hit. Jonathan Byrd’s three-under par round led the morning group, which saw only seven players break par. Players in the afternoon were able to aim for the flags as the winds died down, making the flags more accessible.
Mickelson played a solid round of golf that featured six birdies and only one bogey on the par three 16th hole. He had only 28 putts on the day with a 1.769 putts per green in regulation.
Fred Couples is 1-under after round one at his favorite course besides Augusta National. The 52-year old Couples is looking for his first victory on tour since 2003. Last year, Couples held the lead in the final round, but eventually gave way to winner Aaron Baddeley, who finished two shots clear runner-up Vijay Singh.
J.B. Holmes and Hunter Mahan are tied for second place at 4-under.
“The last seven holes the wind started to die progressively, so by the end, it couldn’t be playing any nicer or better,” Mahan said. “So I was excited to make some birdies late.”
Holmes is playing his fourth tournament of the year after undergoing two brain surgeries in September and October of 2011. Holmes started his round on the back nine with three consecutive birdies to hold the lead for much of his round. However, two bogeys and a double bogey on the front dropped him to second place with Mahan. Holmes, known for his length off the tee, was on fire on the greens averaging just 1.385 putts per green in regulation.
Amateurs, Patrick Cantlay and Jordan Spieth, struggled with a 78 and 76 respectively. Anthony Kim shot a 78 and continues to struggle on Tour this year with only one sub-70 round.