The first day of the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club finished with a handfull of players still not completing their round and they will have to finish tomorrow morning.
There are nine players currently tied for the lead at 4 under and three of them are Aussies. It is a congested leader board with seven Aussies in the top 26.
We arrived at the club house in the Mercedes courtesy car just after 5am and it was very cold, below 5 degress Celcius. Michael went to the fitness trailer and did some stretching and warm up drills with his trainer for 1/2 an hour. While he did this his caddy prepared his bag for the day. This includes checking and cleaning his clubs, replacing and marking new balls and most importantly loading up with water and healthy snacks for the day.
At 5.50am it was my turn to do my job which is to prepare him for the round. This involves giving him feedback not only on his swing technique but also getting his main focus on rhythm and tempo. Michael normally starts with putting but there were no lights on and it was still 45 minutes before sunrise so we walked down the steep hill to the driving range which had lights. Started with 10 minutes of chipping from different lies (fairway & rough), 5 minutes of bunker shots and then hit balls.
Michael always starts with his wedges moving through the bag to the driver and finishes with a few short irons. Every shot he hits from chip to driver is done with a full Pre Shot Routine simulating what he will do out on the course.
As he was teeing off the 1st tee it was back up the hill to the clubhouse for a few putts to get the speed of the greens which were running at 11.5 on the stipmeter and on Riviera's small sloping greeens translates to very fast especially if you get above pin high.
The first three holes played tough for the early starters as the cold atmosphere doesn't allow the ball to fly normally so adjustment is required in club selection. Michael got off to a good start making birdies on hole 3 and 6 to be 2 under and leading at that point. A couple of bogies on 9 and 10 set him back but he cancelled them out with birdies on 12 and 14. A bogey on 18 added up to a 1 under score of 70 and a tie for 26th position.
Overall a solid start and it was good to see his putting was back to its normal high standard of excellent distance control especially on hole 9 where he lagged his 1st putt from 87 feet to tap in distance.
Tomorrow the weather forcast is not good and the prediction is rain which although may slow the greens down it is inperative that approachshots are hit from fairways as shots from the kikuyu rough when wet make it very difficult to find the small greens.
News from the course is that Bubba Watson has withdrawn due to an injury to his oblique abdorminal muscle. Jim Fuyrk is using new equipment and he struggled with a 4 over 75 the same score as Steve Elkingon who won the 1995 USPGA right here at Riviera.
Dustin Johnson was given a 2 stroke penalty for arriving late to the tee and was 1 minute from being disqualified.
He got his tee off time mixed up.!!
Hope the rain stays away otherwise it could be a long disruptive day for eveyone especially the organisers and ground staff.