Jordan Spieth hits from the tenth hole tee box during the first round of the Genesis Open golf tournament at Riviera Country Club. Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES – Three-time major-winner Jordan Spieth and South Korean Kang Sung topped the leaderboard Thursday when darkness halted play in the weather-hit Genesis Open, where tournament host Tiger Woods never even got to tee off.

Spieth was five-under through 12 holes of the first round and Kang was five-under through 14 at Riviera Country Club, where heavy rain saw the first round get underway in earnest seven hours late.

Organizers tried to get things going on time, only for increasing rain and deteriorating visibility to prompt them to call a halt, and take the unusual step of nullifying the few scores that had been posted.

That saw Phil Mickelson's unlikely par at Riviera's 10th - where he was in three bunkers and holed out from the sand - expunged.

Mickelson, coming off a win on Monday at the weather-disrupted Pebble Beach Pro-Am, returned in the afternoon and was one-over through 12 when darkness fell, unable to get much going playing alongside Xander Schauffele and Spieth.

Spieth grabbed five birdies on the rain-softened course while Kang had one bogey, four birdies and an eagle at the par-five 11th.

“Given I went cart path to cart path to junk on the first start, and then we got to re-start the round -- I went from kind of being unfortunate to fortunate,” Spieth said.

“Played the par-fives well,” said Spieth, who birdied the three par-fives and also chipped in twice for birdie. “Really solid start, but certainly got some good breaks,” he said.

A golf cart is driven thru standing water during a stoppage in play in the first round of the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club. Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
A golf cart is driven thru standing water during a stoppage in play in the first round of the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club. Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Kang said the weather was worse last week at Pebble Beach.

“It didn't bother me at all today,” said Kang, who had three birdies in his first six holes but said the chip-in for eagle at 11 was key.

“Since then I hit fairways - I hit fairways on the important holes like 12 and 13.”

With half the field still to complete the first round and the other half yet to start it, PGA Tour rules official Steve Rintoul acknowledged it would be a race to complete the tournament on Sunday.

“We had an interesting start to the morning,” Rintoul said, adding that the course received some two inches of rain in 24 hours.

Interesting rulings'

Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their balls in the fairway, and also relieved relief from temporary water and embedded balls.

“Interesting rulings, but we're progressing,” Rintoul said. “When we lose seven hours on the very first day of a tournament, the rest of the week's going to be long.

“Probably (we'll) still be finishing the third round on Sunday morning and try to get you guys a champion by Sunday evening,” he said.

Spieth was glad he got a good portion of his first round finished.

“It's not fun if you don't get to play at all,” he said. “The more you play the better, especially if you're playing well.”

First-round play was set to resume on Friday at 7 am (1500 GMT), with those in the original afternoon wave expected to tee off between 7:50 am and 9:45 am.

That will include 14-time major champion Woods, who will play alongside Northern Ireland star Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas in his second start of 2019.

Agence France-Presse (AFP)