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AFP
February 15, 2020

Kuchar grabs 3-shot lead

Sports

AFP
February 15, 2020

LOS ANGELES: Matt Kuchar fired a sparkling seven-under 64 on Thursday to seize a three-shot lead after the first round of the Genesis Invitational golf tournament at Riviera Country Club.

South Korea’s Lee Kyoung-hoon and Americans Russell Henley, Wyndham Clark, Adam Schenk and Harold Varner shared second on 67 with Rory McIlroy — newly returned to world number one — headlining a group of 10 on 68 that also included Australia’s Jason Day and former Masters champion Patrick Reed.

Tournament host Tiger Woods closed with a bogey to fall out of that bunch, cooling off after a hot start to post a two-under par 69 as he pursues a record 83rd US PGA Tour title. Woods was still a teenager when he played his first US tour event at Riviera, but he has never won on the classic course in the Pacific Palisades west of Los Angeles in 12 prior tries, and his struggles continued on Thursday.

Kuchar, meanwhile, start­ed hot and stayed that way. His seven birdies included a 28-footer at the 18th and a 33-footer at the eighth — his penultimate hole of the day.

Kuchar, who hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation, said missing in the right spot was the key to getting up and down when needed.

McIlroy had two eagles in his round, but said he put himself on the defensive too often. After getting up and down for par from an awkward lie in a bunker at the 10th, McIlroy was scrambling until an eagle at 17, followed by another eagle at the first.

The chilly morning temperatures were a factor in his “very sluggish start” as McIlroy saw his three-wood into the 11th come up 40 yards shorter than the 285 yards he can usually expect. Six holes later, with the weather warming up, he had 289 yards into the 17th and put a three-wood pin-high, 35 feet from the hole.

Brooks Koepka opened his week on 69, joining a big group that also included not only Woods but also Justin Rose and fellow Englishman Paul Casey, defending champion JB Holmes and South Koreans Im Sung-jae, Kang Sung and Kim Si-woo.