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Dustin Johnson leads Northern Trust Open by a stroke

LOS ANGELES -- Oh, the love, hate, admiration and downright exasperation PGA Tour golfers alternately feel for the 10th hole at Riviera Country Club.

It separated the leaders from the losers at the first round of the Northern Trust Open on Thursday, where Dustin Johnson led after firing a 5-under-par 66 and 11 golfers sat one shot back.

The day's top dozen performers all shot par or better on Riviera's treacherous par-4 10th, which tempts golfers with a narrow but reachable green with six surrounding bunkers. The bottom dozen shot a collective 9-over par on it.

"Ten is the best," said current FedEx Cup leader Jimmy Walker, who birdied it and finished at 4-under 67. "I think it's probably one of the best holes we play all year. It's got a lot of character."

Robert Garrigus feels differently. The tour journeyman, tied with Walker at 67, received the result he was hoping for when he attacked it with a 4-wood, but his disdain remained.

"I don't like that hole very much," Garrigus said flatly. "I even gave it a little fist pump because I don't think I've birdied that hole in 10 years."

Notching birdie required what Garrigus described as "one of the best flop shots of my life," wedged in 8 feet from the hole from behind a bunker.

Mission Viejo native Cameron Tringale learned his lesson after playing Riviera with former champion Steve Stricker in 2011. Continually perplexed with what strategy was smartest, he consulted Stricker and found out the veteran lays up every time.

"So that's what I do," Tringale said. "Even though you can get it around the green, that's not going to pay off long term. It's a tough wedge shot, but if you don't hit the perfect drive you're scrambling for a 4."

Tour veteran Scott Verplank, 49, would've loved a par. He carded an unusual quad-bogey 8 -- a so-called snowman -- there to begin his day, then withdrew because of an ailing back before finishing nine holes.

Brendan Steele of Irvine (3-under 68) was one of two golfers two shots back to bogey No. 10, as he attempted to drive the green but overshot it significantly, then went bunker to bunker.

At one point, Tringale was tied for the lead at 5-under, but he bogeyed two of his back-nine holes to close out his round.

"This had the potential to be a great, great round," Tringale said. "The way the course is playing, 3 under out here is a very good score."

Among the 11 tied for second at 4-under 67 are Charlie Beljan, who lost in a sudden-death playoff at Riviera in 2013, and Scott Stallings, last month's winner at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego.

NOTES

Former Orange resident Hunter Mahan shot 1-under 70 to sit four shots back of the lead, tied for 35th. ...

Play was suspended because of darkness at 5:42 p.m. with 15 of the 144 golfers yet to finish their rounds. It's scheduled to resume at 6:40 a.m. Friday. ...

Grouped together Thursday were Jordan Spieth, 20, and Fred Couples, 59. They each carded 1-over 72 and fist-bumped to commemorate finishing frustrating rounds. Spieth bogeyed the par-4 18th hole after his tee shot landed behind a tree in the rough. "That was a good decision I just made right there," he said sarcastically after his second shot from the thick grass, loud enough for the gallery to hear -- and chuckle at.

(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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