Dustin Johnson enjoying lead, life

Dustin Johnson is the early leader at the Riviera Country Club on Thursday with a 5-under 66. 

Stephen Dunn

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — Dustin Johnson will take it.

Yeah, the guy engaged to Paulina Gretzky is also pretty good on the golf course, too.

Johnson, currently in fourth place in the FedExCup standings, shot a 5-under 66, putting himself atop the leaderboard after one round to kick off the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club on Thursday.

"Ever since the first time I came here, I think my rookie year, I’ve just really liked this golf course…it’s always in good condition," Johnson said. "It’s a fun course to play. It’s tough, but fair."

Johnson, the PGA Tour’s driving distance leader (310.9 yard average) finished tied for second at last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where conditions were the usual Pebble Beach pedigree before turning cold in the final rounds.

That isn’t the case at Riviera.

"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 really nice temperature," Johnson said. "It’s still golf, though. You still got to adjust no matter what you are doing.

"Any score under par out here is a pretty solid round"

Turning to hockey, Johnson spoke of his Stadium Series experience with future father-in-law Wayne Gretzky last month at Dodger Stadium.

"It was a great time. We went out a little bit early and watched them warm up and watched Wayne drop the puck. It’s just cool to be a part of it," Johnson said.

Odd Couples

Fan favorite Fred Couples (1-over 72) is making his 32nd career start at the Northern Trust Open, where he won in 1990 and 1992. He joins six other players on Tour who have made 32 or more starts in a non-major PGA Tour event.

The best part of playing Riviera for Couples? The close proximity to his house.

"(I moved a mile away) a few years ago.  I have a bunch of friends coming out and a bunch of people staying with me. The same 20 people will be out here watching.

"I’m lucky, this is my favorite tournament, and I’ve played a lot of times, won a couple times.  But to help the tournament and Northern Trust, I’m grateful, and eventually I won’t play in this and I’ll watch the tournament as much as I can.

"My goal is to try to hang with these guys."


Robert Garrigus (4-under 67), who’s known for using a 28-inch putter, on his attitude improvement,.

"I just stopped telling myself that I hated this place, so to speak. But I convinced myself that this is my favorite golf course of the year and I tell you what, this is the best shape I’ve seen it. I think everything worked out good today."

Kevin Stadler (2-under 69), winner of this season’s Waste Management Phoenix Open (his first career PGA Tour victory) and son of Tour veteran Craig Stadler (a 1996 Northern Trust Open winner), on playing at Rivera, a course he knows from his days at USC.

"I play here every time I could. I had to miss it one time because I had a little injury. I was not happy about it…but I’ll gladly player here every single year."

Charley Hoffman (4-under 67), a San Diego native and owner of two-career PGA Tour wins, on avoiding the crazy Los Angeles traffic, especially, the 405 freeway.

"Yeah, I’m lucky, I have a family I’ve stayed with since my second year on Tour in Santa Monica, ten minutes away. Stress level is very low for me driving around."