PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Riviera Country Club may be just what Robert Allenby needed to turn a so-so start into sensational.
The Aussie missed the cut in his first two events and tied for 62nd in Phoenix. But he's a past champion of the Northern Trust Open with three more top-10s since his 2001 victory, so even though he’s been inconsistent early this year to see Allenby tied for the lead is hardly an aberration.
Allenby didn't make a bogey during the first round in shooting 67, which tied for his low round of the year. He hit 8 of 14 fairways, all but four greens in regulation and used just 28 putts.
Normally one of the TOUR's most consistent ball-strikers, Allenby hasn't had the the same confidence off the tee this year. His driving accuracy is just 51 percent (compared with 65 last year) and he's averaging 30 putts per round.
Hence the slow start, and correspondingly, the positive vibes on Thursday.
"I haven't been putting very well, but more I just haven't been driving the ball very well,' Allenby explained. "I did have some new TaylorMade drivers in there, and I changed just back to the old ones just to get some confidence going. I'll change eventually back to the white ones, but at the moment I just need to get some confidence with my swing and get the year started because I haven't really started, really. Not for me anyway.
"But you know, my confidence grew today, and I drove the ball really well. Things are looking good."
Allenby started on the front nine and got things going in the right direction when he holed a 44-footer for birdie at the fifth hole. His other birdie putts came from 10, 6 and 14 feet.
"I made a long one on 5 from just off the front there, which was nice," Allenby said. "I played solid. Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of opportunities for birdies. I probably heft four or five out there within ten feet.
"But you know, you've got to make them and you're going to miss them. These greens are very tricky, they're not easy to read, very subtle breaks out there. But I haven't been playing well coming into this tournament, so I was pretty happy to shoot 4 under." – Helen Ross