Kuchar leads Genesis Invitational as Tiger Woods shoots 69

American golfer Matt Kuchar set the pace in California on Thursday.

American golfer Matt Kuchar   -  Getty Images

Matt Kuchar earned a three-stroke lead after the opening round of the Genesis Invitational, where Tiger Woods started hot but faded.

American golfer Kuchar carded a seven-under-par 64 to set the early pace at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades on Thursday.

Kuchar – who was part of Tiger Woods' triumphant Presidents Cup team in Melbourne in December – is without a solo victory since the 2019 Sony Open in Hawaii more than a year ago.

But Kuchar made a strong start in California, where the nine-time PGA Tour champion was bogey-free as he holed seven birdies to top the leaderboard ahead of Lee Kyoung-hoon, Russell Henley, Wyndham Clark, Adam Schenk and Harold Varner III.

It is a star-studded field for the invitational event – one of only five tournaments given that status by the PGA Tour – and four-time major champion Rory McIlroy is in contention.

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World number one McIlroy recorded two eagles, a pair of bogeys and a birdie for a three-under-par 68 on day one.

McIlroy headlines a group of 10 players tied for seventh, including Jason Day and Patrick Reed.

Woods is a stroke further back after the 15-time major winner faltered following a bright start in his pursuit of a maiden Genesis Invitational trophy.

The American superstar made an eagle on his first hole, opening a tournament with an eagle for just the second time since 2003 – the fourth of his career at Riviera.

Woods holed two birdies on a flawless front nine before fading after the turn, with the veteran bogeying twice – including the last for a two-under-par 69.

Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant – who tragically died in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter Giannia and seven other victims last month – was honoured around the course.

From a flag in Lakers colours and with Bryant's number eight, to Brooks Koepka sporting headcovers inspired by the five-time NBA champion.

Former world number one Koepka, reigning champion J.B. Holmes and Justin Rose are among the players at two under, while the likes of 2018 winner Dustin Johnson, two-time champion Phil Mickelson, three-time victor Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth ended the day one over the card.