By Mark Lamport-Stokes
PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Former major winners Vijay Singh and Retief Goosen struck a blow for the old guard on the PGA Tour as the two veterans surged into a six-way tie for the lead at the Northern Trust Open on Thursday.
Playing together in the opening round at a sun-splashed Riviera Country Club, the seasoned campaigners fired matching five-under-par 66s on a firm and fast-running layout with barely a breath of wind.
Singh piled up six birdies and a lone bogey while Goosen picked up three shots in his last six holes as they finished the round level with Americans Nick Watney, James Hahn, Daniel Summerhays and Derek Fathauer.
Mexican Carlos Ortiz opened with a 67 while Germany's Alex Cejka, Australian Geoff Ogilvy and Americans Justin Thomas and William McGirt carded 68s.
"I kept my ball in play, hit a lot of fairways, hit a lot of greens and when I did miss, I chipped it real close," former world number one Singh, who has battled assorted health problems in recent years, told reporters. "It was a comfortable round.
"I'm finally not hurting as much as I did the last five years. That's a big part of playing good golf. You're not hurting, you can go out and play and you're comfortable.
"The golf swing feels good, and I'm happy to be playing," said the 51-year-old Fijian, who has not won on the PGA Tour since the 2008 Deutsche Bank Championship.
Goosen, whose last victory on the U.S. circuit came at the 2009 Transitions Championship, has also been struggling for full fitness since having back surgery in August 2012 to repair a damaged disc.
"It was nice to play with Vijay," said the 46-year-old South African, a twice former U.S. Open champion. "He played very solid too, and he putted really good. It's nice that the two old boys played so well. We were sort of feeding off each other."
Masters champion Bubba Watson, who won last year's Northern Trust Open, launched his title defense with a 70 to end the day level with long-hitting American Dustin Johnson and triple major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland.
"I didn't hit many greens," said Watson. "The swing wasn't feeling the best but somehow we kept getting up and down. I was missing (greens) in the right spots."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)