By Mark Lamport-Stokes
PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Robert Garrigus, energized by the power of positive thinking, banished memories of previous struggles at Riviera Country Club as he charged up the Northern Trust Open leaderboard on Thursday.
In four previous starts at the revered venue, Garrigus had broken par only once while never finishing better than joint 51st but he transformed that for the better on a glorious, sun-splashed day as he fired a four-under 67 in the opening round.
"I completely changed my attitude," American Garrigus told reporters when asked what had made the difference for him at a PGA Tour event where he has twice missed the cut and withdrew in 2012 after opening with a 79.
"I just stopped telling myself that I hated this place, so to speak. I convinced myself this is my favorite golf course of the year and I tell you what, this is the best shape I've ever seen it.
"The greens are rolling unbelievably good, and you don't usually see that on poa annua (grass). So with my attitude and the way the course has shaped up, everything worked out good today."
Garrigus, whose only PGA Tour victory came at the 2010 Children's Miracle Network Classic, shrugged off a bogey on his opening hole, the par-five first, by maintaining his positive mindset to finish one stroke off the early lead.
"I really wasn't too upset because I didn't hit a bad shot and I just got a bad break," he said of his third shot at the first where he failed to escape a greenside bunker.
"So it was pretty easy just to go to the next hole and be like, 'You know what, I've got (17 more) holes there.' I just kept telling myself, 'It's going to turn around, it's going to turn around, I love this place.'
"That was a big part of the attitude. I hit a lot of good tee shots and iron shots and made some putts, so I'm going to go with that attitude for the rest of the week."
Garrigus, whose best finish in eight starts on the 2013-14 PGA Tour was a tie for 12th at the season-opening Frys.com Open in October, said he had learned a lot about staying patient from his father Tom, a former Olympic athlete.
Tom Garrigus won a silver medal in trap shooting at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City and went on to coach the U.S. team at the Atlanta Games in 1996.
"He watched my first round on the PGA Tour and he just said, 'You know, one shot at a time because that's all it is in trap shooting is one shot at a time, literally,'" said Garrigus.
"So it kind of translated into my golf game, just one at a time, don't get ahead of yourself, don't think about the next target, don't think about the next shot, don't think about the next anything.
"It's amazing how much that translates, and it couldn't have worked out any better because I can't do anything else other than golf, so I'm pretty fortunate," Garrigus smiled.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Larry Fine)