Coming off a three-week break, Matt Kuchar might not remember golf feeling this easy.
He opened with three straight birdies, all of the putts inside 3 feet. He finished with back-to-back birdies at Riviera, holing a 25-foot putt on the 18th hole for a 7-under-par 64 that gave him the first-round lead Thursday in the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles.
Brandt Jobe, returning from a serious neck injury last summer, put his experience to use on the course he played more times than he can remember while at UCLA. He ran off four straight birdies late in his round, only to close with a bogey on the 18th to finish at 66.
It was a great day for scoring, and Kuchar and Jobe had plenty of company.
James Hahn, who shared the 54-hole lead last week at Pebble Beach, and David Lynn were at 67. The group at 68 included Lee Westwood and Fred Couples, a two-time winner of this event who feels rejuvenated at Riviera.
For the first time in nearly three years, Masters champion Bubba Watson failed to make a single birdie. He had a 76.
Phil Mickelson also is trying to regain some form just two weeks after his record performance to win the Phoenix Open. He didn’t hit a fairway until his 11th hole. Even so, he scratched out a 71.
LPGA — At Canberra, Australia, teen star Lydia Ko shot a 10-under 63 to take the first-round lead in the season-opening Women’s Australian Open.
The 15-year-old amateur won the New Zealand Women’s Open last Sunday for her third professional victory.
Ko opened with a bogey on the 10th, birdied the next four holes, and eagled the par-5 15th. She bogeyed the 16th and birdied Nos. 17-18 to make the turn at 6-under 30. The South Korean-born New Zealander added birdies on Nos. 2-4 and 6, dropped a stroke on No. 8, and closed with her 11th birdie.
‘‘I was in a really good group,’’ said Ko, paired with top-ranked Yani Tseng and Michelle Wie. ‘‘I was pretty nervous when I saw the draw that I was playing with two of the big names, but I mean the weather was beautiful, I think we all enjoyed our time out there.’’
Mariajo Uribe was a stroke back while Jiyai Shin was two behind after a 65. Tseng, the Australian Open winner at Commonwealth in 2010 and 2011, opened with a 68 in her first tournament of the year. Wie, making her first appearance in Australia, shot a 74.
European — Jaco Van Zyl carded a 6-under 66 and was the clubhouse leader when the first round of the Africa Open was suspended because of darkness in Eastern Cape, South Africa. High winds earlier in the day had suspended play for nearly three hours.