Sunday 21 January 2018

Sergio Garcia tied for lead after first round of Honda Classic

Sergio Garcia is in a share of the lead after the first round of the Honda Classic (AP)
Sergio Garcia is in a share of the lead after the first round of the Honda Classic (AP)
Sergio Garcia is in a share of the lead after the first round of the Honda Classic

A week after describing his own play as terrible, Sergio Garcia turned a spectacular start into a brilliant 65 to share the lead after the opening round of the Honda Classic at PGA National.

Garcia holed his approach to the par-four second from 148 yards for an eagle and added four birdies and one bogey to finish five under par alongside American Michael Thompson.

World number five Rickie Fowler, who played alongside Garcia, carded a flawless 66 to share third with compatriot William McGirt, with Ireland's Shane Lowry another stroke back following a 67.

Garcia, who missed the cut in the Northern Trust Open last week, dropped just one shot in the windy conditions, although that was the least of his worries at the time.

After pulling his drive on the sixth into a lake, Garcia elected to take off his shoes and socks and splash out from the edge of the water, but could understandably be seen anxiously looking over his shoulder for signs of any alligators nearby.

The world number 19 emerged unscathed and produced the perfect response with birdies on the seventh and eighth and parred the next nine holes before a two-putt birdie on the 18th.

Speaking about his flying start, Garcia told Sky Sports: "I hit two really good shots on the first and hit a good putt but just missed it right, and then on two I hit a great drive and a beautiful eight iron and managed to hole it.

"It's funny because the last six or seven times Rickie and I played together either he holed out or I did. Today we both did [Fowler chipped in for par on the 10th] and it's always nice to see.

"I took it quite easy this week after playing terrible last week so it was nice to go out there with low expectations and I was able to play well."

Lowry was level par for the day before holing from 18 feet for birdie on the 17th and then just four feet for eagle on the par-five 18th after a stunning approach over the water.

"I hit a great drive down there and had 215 (yards) to the front, 243 to the flag and the wind was howling out of the left," the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational winner told PGA Tour Radio. "It was just a hard three-iron and try to not let it go right.

"I was just trying to get it up somewhere on the left side of the green and thankfully it came off straight at the flag and released down to about three feet. It was a nice way to finish.

"I was just happy to shoot under par out there, it's so tough. It's very tough mentally, every shot requires a good shot, you don't get away with any bad shots out there. I am very happy with where I am. I've got a long way to go so hopefully I can get a good night's sleep tonight and get out there tomorrow afternoon and do something."

Asked if he was playing at the highest level of his career, the three-time European Tour winner added: "Definitely. I feel like I am good enough to compete week in, week out.

"I've done okay since the start of the year, I'm pretty happy with my first three tournaments and obviously very happy with my round today and looking forward not only to the weekend, but the whole season.

"I'm playing over here a little bit more and going back to Europe and playing. I have a very exciting schedule this year and I'm looking forward to a lot of things."

Rory McIlroy, who won here in 2012 to become world number one for the first time, was seven shots off the pace after an erratic 72, while playing partner and defending champion Padraig Harrington carded a 73 which included a double bogey after losing a ball in a palm tree on the 10th.

McIlroy was one under par after 13 holes but took six on the 14th after finding three separate bunkers and, after a birdie on the 15th, bogeyed the 16th and 18th, the latter with a three-putt from 10 feet.

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