Sergio Garcia easily wins round one of the Honda Classic. In blustery, difficult conditions on Thursday at PGA National, Garcia managed to fire an impressive five-under 65 to take a share of the lead with Michael Thompson.
The course was certainly not giving up shots easily, but conditions actually calmed quite a bit late afternoon, so some players took advantage of the tamer weather. But PGA National sure showed its teeth in the morning, with the lowest scores posted being three-under 70 by George McNeil, David Lingmerth and Shane Lowry, who had a thrilling eagle to get there on the 18th.
Here are some of the highlights of the day…
Phil Mickelson, who played in the tougher conditions early, was pleased with his opening one-under 69 (which had him on the first page of the leaderboard in the morning). As he continues to say over the past few weeks, he’s trending in the right direction — he’s *so* close.
“It does feel a lot easier striking the golf ball and into crosswinds like this,” said Mickelson. “I felt very confident working it back into the wind and did it a number of times today, and the ball-striking took a lot of pressure off my short game to keep it around par, and it was a good first day…
“It’s been really fun for me to come out and play, because I just know that I’m going to strike it well. I have control of the misses but I’m hitting a lot of good shots, as well.
“On my back nine, I let a few shots go and I just can’t wait to get back out there tomorrow because I know I can get it back under par. I’m having a lot of fun playing right now, because I’m starting to play with ease and hit some shots that I’m trying to hit.”
Mickelson made two bogeys on the front nine (he teed off no. 10).
With the heavy rains earlier in the week, the players got a bit of a break since it helped tame the difficult conditions, making the course soft.
“It was very windy,” said Mickelson. “Crosswinds off the tee, crosswinds into the green, and the quartering would change from being directly across to maybe helping a fraction or even hurting a fraction. It was very difficult to judge clubs. Bones did a great job today.
“But the greens were soft and that gave us a chance, because if we could fly it somewhere close or on the green, the ball was stopping very quickly and it made the golf course very playable.”
It was also tough to judge the ball rolling on the greens in the gusty conditions.
“It’s very difficult,” he said. “The speed downwind or into the wind, when the greens are this fast, is significant. It’s very significant, and the crosswinds will actually push a ball from breaking an inch or two one way to breaking an inch or two another way. So you are constantly having to gauge the break, as well as the wind. Those four-, five-, six-footers, it makes it very challenging.”
RICKIE KEEPS IT ROLLING
Rickie Fowler, who played alongside co-leader Garcia, had a pretty good day at the office himself. He posted a four-under 66 to put himself just one shot off the pace, setting himself up for yet another strong finish and possible win.
The afternoon wave of players definitely got a break.
“I think we got kind of a good break playing in the afternoon today,” said Fowler. “I think the wind laid down a little bit for us. I know the guys had a tough time this morning and the course was not easy.
“This is one course with the wind up, it’s very hard to hit fairways and from there, hard to hit greens. Still didn’t play easy out there for us.”
Fowler felt good about his round, especially his ballstriking, but he left a few shots out on the greens.
“I think just ball-striking,” said Fowler. “I felt like I did a good job of committing to what I was trying to do and hitting my lines. I felt like I hit a lot of good quality golf shots today in the wind. Hit a lot of good putts, too. Unfortunately they just weren’t going in. So hopefully that will start tomorrow.”
The highlight of Fowler’s day came at the par-4 10th when he hit a poor approach in the water, took a penalty drop that left him in a weird spot, but he managed to chip it in to save par.
“I was down kind of where the fans stand, kind of trampled down, a little wet down there,” explained Fowler. “Had to go with try and hit kind of a full-swing flop there with the pin where it was.
“Didn’t exactly work out too well but ended up in a spot that’s a makeable chip. Not easy by any means, so nice to walk away with 4 there. After the first one, I thought, man, let’s just get out with 5 and move on.”
Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler played with each other in the first round and the two looked like they had a good time, having laughs and congratulating each other on solid strikes.
“We’ve always just got along really well,” said Fowler. “We enjoy playing together. We hang out off the golf course, as well. We just have fun out there. I guess have the same outlook out there hitting shots, and especially in these conditions when it’s windy, I feel like we kind of navigate the way around the course the same way. It’s always fun to watch him play and hopefully he feels the same way about watching me.”
Added Garcia: “Yeah, we love playing together. It’s always fun. Funny enough, we seem to play well when we play together. I don’t know how many times this happened, but probably out of the last, I’m going to say, five or six times we played together, either I’ve holed out or he has holed out on that round.
“So you know, today we managed to both do it. He holed a nice chip on 10 for par, and I holed an 8-iron (on no. 2). I don’t know, it’s one of those funny things that I guess happens.”
After a very forgettable week at Riviera, Sergio Garcia has bounced back nicely to share the top of the leaderboard. Garcia showed his excellent ball-striking and pured shots through the wind with that finesse we all love to watch. He certainly didn’t waste any time getting off to a fast start, holing an 8-iron out from the fairway for eagle on no. 2.
“The hole-out on 2, it was really, really nice, obviously I hit a really good drive, which is a tough drive there,” explained Garcia. “I think I had like 142 yards into the wind. Hit a strong 8-iron with a tiny little bit of a draw. It was nice to hole it.”
Garcia had an eventful day. On the par-4 6th, his drive found the water hazard, but he was able to hit it out, so he took his shoes off, rolled his pants up and went about his business.
“I was more worried about the alligator that was on the other side of the island than getting out of the water.” https://t.co/AOk5nBMO77
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 25, 2016
“That was probably one of my worst drives,” he said. “I pulled it a little bit there. I was more worried about the alligator that was on the other side of the island than getting out of the water, because the ball, I could see probably half of it.
“So I knew that I could get it out, didn’t know how far out, but then I managed to hit a pitching wedge and came out a little bit low, but it got a little bit of run. Almost made 4, which would have been a great 4. I’m not going to lie, I was happy with a 5.”
Garcia showed what makes him so much fun to watch with his par on no. 10 — his shot-making skills rival just about anyone on Tour. After an errant drive left on the par 4, he hit a massive hook shot onto the green.
“I obviously drew it a little bit too much with the driver and unfortunately hit someone on the leg and went farther left,” said Garcia. “Left me, I think it was like 230 or 235 to the hole into the wind.
“The good thing was the lie wasn’t too bad and the wind was helping me to hook it, so I managed to hit a hooking 5-wood. It came out a little bit lower than I thought it would, but you know, just managed to hit it just short of the green and 2-putt, which I was very happy with.” Check it out:
“I probably had to hook it, I would say, a good 40 yards.”
Sergio had a fun round today. https://t.co/IcwA7P9fKy
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 25, 2016
He estimated that he had to hook it about 40 yards. You know, the usual.
“I probably had to hook it, I would say, a good 40 yards,” said Garcia. “I couldn’t see exactly where the ball finished because the sun was straight into our face, and it was difficult to see exactly how much it run.
“But obviously I got some club, so I figured that it was somewhere on the green, and then my caddie, Glen, he saw it and he said, I think it’s just short of the green there on the middle of the entrance of the green, so that was nice.”