Garcia finds late birdies in thickening Riviera fog

Thu Feb 14, 2013 10:00pm EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Sergio Garcia could hardly see the flagstick on his last three holes, yet the Spaniard finished with two birdies to end the Northern Trust Open first round a stroke off the lead on Thursday.

As thick fog rolled across the iconic Riviera Country Club layout, the world number 14 completed a six-under-par 65 with only American Matt Kuchar ahead of him in a high-quality field.

Making his first appearance on the PGA Tour this year, Garcia coolly sank a six-foot birdie putt on his final hole, the par-four ninth, after hitting an exquisite eight-iron approach.

"Obviously I'm very happy with it," the 33-year-old Spaniard told reporters after mixing seven birdies with a lone bogey on a challenging Riviera layout he has always enjoyed playing.

"My first tournament in the United States this year, it was nice to start like that with three birdies. Then I managed to play quite good, not extremely well. I hit my drivers pretty good.

"Overall I managed to hit some nice chips and hit some nice putts here and there, so I'm very pleased with the round over."

Asked when his group had been first affected by the late afternoon fog, Garcia replied: "We were on the seventh tee. And then that marine layer or fog or whatever you want to call it, it came in very quickly.

"I was wondering if we would be able to keep going. In some spots, here and there, it was tough to see the pin and stuff."   Continued...

Sergio Garcia of Spain waves after making a birdie on the seventh hole during the first round of the Northern Trust Open golf tournament at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles February 14, 2013. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok