GREENSBORO, North Carolina (Reuters) - Sergio Garcia’s love-affair with Greensboro shows no sign of waning, as he proved in Thursday’s first round at the $5.3 million Wyndham Championship.
Back at the site of his American coming-out-party 15 years ago, the Spanish former world number two did not record a bogey on his way to a five-under-par 65 at Sedgefield Country Club.
“I’m very happy with the round and hoping to do more of the same tomorrow,” said Garcia, who was among eight players trailing co-leaders Chris Stroud and Ross Fisher by one stroke.
Garcia was an 18-year-old amateur when he nearly won a secondary PGA Tour event at Sedgefield in 1998, creating headlines of his own with a third-place finish.
The Donald Ross course has been redesigned since then but it clearly remains a good fit for the 33-year-old Spaniard, a 10-times winner on the European Tour.
Garcia missed only one green in regulation, although that statistic disguises that he was not entirely happy with a few of his approach shots which ended up a long way from the hole.
“I did have some pulls with some of my irons but other than that I probably feel the most comfortable I have in the last three weeks,” the Spaniard said.
Co-leader Stroud’s late decision to play at Greensboro looked like a very good one after he seized the early lead in the clubhouse with a 64 on an unusually mild summer’s morning.
“I didn’t play that great today (but) I’m in the lead. It’s a weird deal,” said American journeyman Stroud, who is ranked 48th in the PGA Tour’s FedExCup points list heading into the playoffs, which start next week.
“It’s a crazy game. I only had one or two really good drives and four or five iron shots (but) kept myself in position and made a lot of good putts - not a bunch of 30-footers, just a lot from eight-to-20 feet.”
Stroud made his first start as a tour pro in Greensboro, on a sponsor’s invitation in 2004, and has been a regular visitor ever since, though he was planning to skip the event this year.
However, he missed the cut by one stroke at last week’s PGA Championship and then decided to enter Greensboro, where he has never finished better than 57th.
“I played pretty well in the PGA and I told my caddie I’m playing too well to go home and just sit and get rusty,” said Stroud, whose best PGA Tour finish was a playoff loss at the Travelers Championship in June.
“This is the nicest weather I’ve seen here, I’m happy to be here and it’s a great golf course that’s even better with new greens.”
Englishman Fisher, playing in the day’s final threesome, joined Stroud at the top of the leaderboard after a flawless round featuring four birdies and an eagle at the par-five fifth.
Fisher has mainly struggled on the PGA Tour this year and blames poor putting for his woes until now.
“The putter has let me down most of this year. I’ve played some really good golf over here but haven’t capitalized,” he said.
“Today I made a lot of really good putts, so to shoot 64 last off, I’m quite pleased.”
Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes