LOS ANGELES — Dustin Johnson was determined to get off to a good start in the Northern Trust Open, so for the first time, he decided against trying to drive the 10th green at Riviera and instead laid up with a 4-iron.
He made par, which never hurts. And then he took off.
Johnson birdied three of his next four holes, one of them with a 65-foot putt, and he kept bogeys off his card during a cool, gentle morning for a 7-under 64 to build a one-shot lead Thursday over Andres Romero and Kevin Stadler.
Brandt Snedeker, coming off a runner-up finish last week at Torrey Pines, and Ricky Barnes were at 66. Steve Stricker had a 67, and David Duval and Ernie Els were in the large group at 68.
Phil Mickelson thought he might be among the leaders. Going for an unprecedented third straight victory at Riviera, he was 3 under midway through his round. He finished with three bogeys over his last four holes — the exception was a 6-foot birdie putt he missed — and wound up with a 72.
DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC: At Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy got off to a good start in his Dubai Desert Classic title defense, shooting a 4-under 68 for a share of the first-round lead. Sweden's Alexander Noren, South Africa's Charl Schwartzel, India's Jeev Milkha Singh, Italy's Edoardo Molinari and Wales' Stephen Dodd also opened with 68s on the Emirates Golf Club's Majlis Course.
Tom Watson shot a 73. The 60-year-old Watson, a playoff loser to Stewart Cink last year in the British Open, is coming off consecutive senior victories in Hawaii. He teamed with Jack Nicklaus to win the Champions Skins, then took the Champions Tour's season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship.
MOONAH CLASSIC: At Fingal, Australia, American Jim Herman shot a course-record 10-under 62 to take a four-stroke lead over Australia's Andre Stolz in the Moonah Classic. The 32-year-old Herman, a regular golf partner of Donald Trump while working as an assistant pro at Trump National in New Jersey, broke the Moonah Links record of 63 shot set by Robert Allenby in the 2005 Australian Open.