LOS ANGELES — Coming off a three-week break, Matt Kuchar might not remember golf feeling this easy.
He opened with three straight birdies, all the putts inside 3 feet. He made back-to-back birdies late in his first round at Riviera. He made seven birdies, the longest putt from 8 feet, en route to 7-under 64 for a one-shot lead over Sergio Garcia on Thursday in the Northern Trust Open.
Garcia, making his PGA Tour debut after two tournaments in the Middle East, finished with two birdies over the last three holes even though he could barely see. Fog dropped in over the final two hours after a day of warm sunshine, and Garcia could barely see the landing area in the fairway or the flags on the green.
No matter. He closed with an 8-iron to 6 feet on an elevated green at No. 9 for his seventh birdie.
Brandt Jobe, returning from a serious neck injury last summer, ran off four straight birdies late in his round, only to close with a bogey to finish at 66, alone in third.
After opening with three straight weeks on the tour, a start that featured a pair of top-10 finishes, Kuchar spent a week in Palm Springs, Calif., then took his family to Hawaii for paddle boarding, snorkeling and other activities that involve water.
Getting back to golf, he worked with swing coach Chris O'Connell and felt just as good as he did before his break.
"I think it was Monday we put in a good day of work and I said, 'I need to get out and play,' " Kuchar said. "We went over to L.A. Country Club, played the North Course. I was excited about the things we were working on and excited how I was hitting the ball. I think the hot start was certainly a great way to get the round going."
Phil Mickelson scratched out 71 and believed he was only a round away from getting back into the mix. "A mini-victory," he said of his round at par.
LPGA: Teen star Lydia Ko shot 10-under 63 to take the first-round lead in the season-opening Women's Australian Open at Canberra. The 15-year-old amateur won the New Zealand Women's Open on Sunday for her third victory in a pro tournament. Last year Ko won the New South Wales Open to become the youngest player to win a pro tour event and the Canadian Open to become the youngest tour winner. She also won the U.S. Women's Amateur. Mariajo Uribe was a stroke back, and Jiyai Shin was two behind. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome and Tampa's Cindy LaCrosse were 2 under. Clearwater's Jennifer Gleason was 2 over.