Dustin Johnson moved down the coast of California and brought his game with him Thursday in the Northern Trust Open.
So did Jimmy Walker.
Johnson made six birdies on a warm, sunny day at Riviera for a 5-under 66, giving him a one-shot lead when the opening round was suspended by darkness. Walker birdied his last three holes and was in the large group at 67 that included Francesco Molinari of Italy and Torrey Pines winner Scott Stallings.
Four days ago, Johnson closed with a 66 in the gray, cold weather of Pebble Beach to finish one shot behind Walker. In conditions that could not have been any different — and could not have been any better — he made birdie on all of the par 5s at Riviera and only had one bogey on his card, at the long par-3 fourth.
The only comparison was the quality of his golf.
“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 was no trouble for Walker, whose victory in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was his third of the season. He drove his RV down from the Monterey Peninsula, got up at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday to appear on Golf Channel, and then went right back to work.
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’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.”’
Warren JFK graduate Jason Kokrak opened with a 2-under 69.
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.