LOS ANGELES - Dean Wilson has seen enough of the PGA Tour's big hitters to realize there are tournaments that put him at a disadvantage. The Nissan Open is not one of them.
Wilson made it around Riviera Country Club without a bogey for a 7-under 64, putting him atop the leaderboard Thursday with Justin Rose on a course that requires more than sheer length.
Wilson played for position, kept bogeys off his card and relied on his wedge to take advantage of the par 5s. Rose missed only three greens, putting from the fringe on two of those holes.
"You tend to hit your whole bag, from 3-iron to wedge," Rose said. "I don't think it suits one player or another. That's why it's such a good place."
They were two shots clear of a group that included Fred Couples, who was so sick upon returning from Australia that he stayed in bed Monday and Tuesday, skipped the pro-am Wednesday and felt his hands shaking over his first putt. He wound up with a 66, then went back to bed.
Meanwhile Tiger Woods, 2-0 for the year but 0-10 at his hometown tournament, recovered from an early double bogey by making four birdies in a five-hole stretch and finished with a 69.
Rounding out the trio of big names under the weather was Ernie Els, who sniffled his way to a 70. The Big Easy made two careless mistakes at the end of his round, missing the fairway to the right at No. 18 and pulling his approach left of the green, leaving himself little room to get it close.
"I was a little anxious out there, but I played OK," Els said.
David Duval got off to his best start this year, a 3-under 68 that featured a nifty up-and-down on the ninth hole. He twice had to rally to make the cut at the Sony Open and Bob Hope Classic, and goes into the second round looking at the leaders instead of the cut line.
"I've been playing catch-up, and this time I started a little better," Duval said. "I think I've been forcing it. I know I'm playing well, and I'm trying to get under par quicker instead of using all 18 holes."
Eight players failed to finish the first round before it was too dark to continue. They will return Friday morning, then start the second round.
Riviera has shown to be a course for just about everybody. Past champions have featured big hitters like Arnold Palmer, Couples and Els, along with shotmakers like Corey Pavin and Mike Weir.
J.B. Holmes, the rookie from Kentucky who blasted his way a seven-shot victory in Phoenix, blasted into the trees and the rough and wound up with an even-par 71. He played in the same group with Brad Faxon, who can hit it short and sideways on his worst days. Faxon made six birdies and had a couple of mistakes in his round of 69.
Wilson didn't reach any of the par 5s in two, but he made birdie on two of them with a wedge in his hand. Two weeks ago, he played in the group ahead of Holmes at the FBR Open and couldn't believe where some of those 300-yard drives were landing.
"It's a different ball game," Wilson said. "I'm trying to hit it a little farther. It's just not as easy as it seems."
Riviera appears to be a great neutralizer.
"I like to see where guys can mix it up, where you might have a guy that's not so long going against a guy that hits a long way," Wilson said. "It's tough to compete against the long hitters. You may be able to get them over 18 holes, but 72 ... it's pretty tough."
Woods could barely complete a sentence without turning his head to sneeze, and while he dropped his share of shots on the course, he was thrilled with anything under par. That looked unlikely early on, when his 4-iron into the par-3 fourth hole went left of the green, hit a cart path and found a bunker on the 17th fairway. It took him two shots to reach the green and he made double bogey, then hit a poor putt and had 4 feet left for par.
He made that one, then ran off four birdies on the next five holes, including a chip-in on the seventh and a 35-footer on the ninth. Woods finished with a bogey by hitting into the trees.
Asked whether he was disgusted with how he hit the ball, Woods replied, "Just disgusted how I felt. Wishing my head would clear up, wishing this fever wold break. It's not going to happen."
He'll get no sympathy from Couples, who said he got sick playing in Australia last week at the Johnnie Walker Classic, and the flight home didn't help.
But he loves this tournament and didn't want to withdraw. Then again, he sliced his opening tee shot, fired his approach over the green at No. 10 and couldn't keep his hands steady while missing a 4-foot par putt.
"I love the course, and I figured no matter how bad I felt, I could get around and have a decent score," he said.
Divots: Billy Mayfair has been in the news lately despite not having won in eight years. He is the only player to beat Tiger Woods in a playoff at an official tournament. "I'd like to play well enough that I have a chance to get in another playoff with him," Mayfair said. ... Adam Scott described himself as the unofficial defending champion, because his 36-hole victory a year ago didn't count as an official win. He officially shot a 3-under 68 on Thursday. ... Former Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton played his first tournament of the year and opened with a 74. Sutton won the '83 PGA Championship at Riviera, holding off Jack Nicklaus.