Eight years after being reduced to tears in his mother's arms following an 89 in the first-round of the British Open at Carnoustie Golf Club, Sergio Garcia's emotions were once again running on overload Thursday as the championship returned to the same site.
"Today, I almost went to tears again," Garcia said in his post-round press conference.
This time, they would've been tears of joy. Returning to the course - tabbed "Car-Nasty" in 1999 due to its brutal playing conditions - that had bludgeoned the young Spainard, Garcia shot a 6-under-par 65 to take a two-stroke lead heading into the second round on the 7,421-yard layout in Scotland.
With rain leaving the course relatively soft and only a gentle breeze to protect it, players found Carnoustie a much more welcoming host this time around. On the same links where Paul Lawrie shot 6-over-par and won in a playoff in 1999, a total of 24 players broke par Thursday.
However, Carnoustie wasn't without some bite, which included early-morning temperatures chilly enough that two-time defending Open champion Tiger Woods wore gloves in between shots. Eight players failed to break 80.
No player had a more dramatic round than former PGA Tour draw John Daly. The former Open champion actually led the tournament at 5-under after holing out from the fairway for eagle on No. 11, but then made a double bogey at No. 12, a triple bogey at No. 14 and bogeys on Nos. 15, 16 and 18 to finish at 3-over 78 and tied for 78th place.
Paul McGinley carded a 4-under 67 and led the championship for much of the early part of the day. He had to settle for second place after being overtaken by Garcia.
"I'm very pleased because my golf hasn't been great the last -- for most of this year," McGinley said. "I've been making a lot of cuts but not performing with a lot of quality. The thing that pleased me most was I played with quality today and it's a pretty good tournament to do it in."
Michael Campbell, Markus Brier, Angel Cabrera, Rory Mcllroy and Boo Weekley were all tied for third at 3-under 68. McIlroy, an 18-year-old amateur, was the only player in the 156-player field to avoid making a bogey.
Woods is among five players tied for eighth after an opening-round 69 that included sinking a 90-foot putt for birdie on No. 16. Woods is attempting to become the first player in more than 50 years to capture three consecutive Open championships.
"Probably the ideal start: I was 3 under through six," Woods told reporters following his round. "I made a couple of mistakes there at 12 and 13, but the last three holes were 1 under par.
"I feel good about what I did today."
So did Garcia, who labeled himself as "most improved" in regard to his 24-stroke improvement over the 89 he shot at Carnoustie in the first round of the 1999 Open. However, Garcia wasn't too interested in dwelling on the past.
"It's not about revenge for me," Garcia said. "I just want to play solid. I just want to play a little bit like I did today: give myself good looks at birdies, not suffer too much out there on the course and put myself in a position where I can do something on Sunday.
"This is a good start. It's definitely what the doctor ordered."
Looking back, Garcia said his dreadful last-round performance in '99 helped him grow as a player.
"I'm sure, at the end of my career, I will have learned more from the 89 I shot in '99 than from the 65 that I shot today, because there are a lot more things to think about," Garcia said. "So playing great is always wonderful and winning is great, but you learn from those near misses and those bad rounds that you have once in a while.
"That's when you sit down and think about it and try to figure out what happened and what you could have done better and different and stuff. That's when you learn the most."
Garcia, who is bidding for his first major tournament title, now just hopes that his putting will hold up. One week after switching to a belly putter, Garcia made seven birdies against one bogey, including five birdies on the back nine to close in 31.
"It worked nicely today," Garcia said of switching putters. "I pretty much decided on it right after the U.S. Open. There's nothing I hate more than not being able to start the putt on line.
"I felt like I was rolling the ball nicely. I've been just trying to get the best routine for it to see where it feels most comfortable, and it looks like I'm starting to get it."
Despite not having won a major, Garcia said he's not putting any extra pressure on himself to win this weekend.
"I'm still young and I'd love to win one very, very soon," said Garcia, who last led a major after firing a first-round 66 in the 1999 PGA Championship. "But at the end of the day, the only thing I can do is give myself chances and put myself in a winning position.
"Hopefully I'll put myself in that position again this week."
July 20, 2007
With stellar play on the back nine at Royal Birkdale, Padraig Harrington shot a 69 in the final round to earn a four-shot victory and become Europe's first back-to-back British Open champion in more than a century. He earned nearly $1.5 million and climbed to No. 3 in the world rankings. "I'm really thrilled with the way I felt today on the golf course," Harrington said. "I hit the ball as pure as I could and just felt really good."
... full article »