Sergio Garcia shares 
first-round lead at Barclays

August 28, 2009

 

Sergio Garcia of Spain waves after sinking a putt on the seventh hole during the first round of The Barclays golf tournament on Thursday at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City , N.J.


JERSEY CITY, N.J. - Not many players would have imagined the most pleasing view at Liberty National being the scorecard.

The new golf course for The Barclays, built on a former refinery site, was praised mainly for its vistas of New York's famous landmarks, from Ellis Island to the Statue of Liberty to the Manhattan skyline.

The nicest thing anyone said about the golf course was that it was long and tough, with wildly undulating greens.

That was before Paul Goydos ran off five birdies in a six-hole stretch, and Steve Marino dropped in eight birdies. And then came a familiar figure on a different golf course, Sergio Garcia, a two-time winner of this tournament when it was held at Westchester.

All of them tied for the first-round lead Thursday at 6-under 65, and they nearly were joined by Charley Hoffman until he missed a short birdie putt and finished a bogey to join three other players at 66.

Nearly half the 124-man field was at par or better. There were 26 rounds in the 60s.

What's so intimidating about that?

"They were nice to us today," Marino said. "They could make this place play extremely difficult, and if we get some winds from that tropical storm that supposedly are going to come this weekend, you guys are going to see some carnage out there, that's for sure."

Marino referred to the PGA Tour rules staff for moving some tees forward and setting pins in reasonable spots.

Not everyone took advantage.

The Barclays is the only PGA Tour event that Tiger Woods has played at least three times without finishing in the top 10. He made only two birdies in his round of 70 and was tied for 27th, five shots behind.

Phil Mickelson, a member at Liberty National, also had a 70 that could have been worse. He had four bogeys in a five-hole stretch around the turn, then rallied with three birdies on the back nine and some nifty par saves from off the green.

"I think this is a great course to hold this event because the hard holes here are ridiculously hard and the easy holes are pretty easy," Mickelson said. "And because of that, we are going to see lots of birdies and bogeys, which is exactly what happened in my round. I didn't hit great shots on the hard holes and I made bogeys, and I hit some pretty good shots on the easy holes and I made birdies."

FedEx Cup champion Vijay Singh and Camilo Villegas who won all four playoff events last year each checked in with a 75.

Overnight rain kept the greens soft, and the wind was more of a breeze.

That helped.

And good golf always goes a long way, as Garcia is quick to point out.

"Don't be deceived by the scores," he said. "It's not an easy course."

Garcia made it look that way, especially on the back nine. After quickly getting into contention, he hit what he considered his best shot of the round, a 9-iron from 138 yards in the first cut to a front pin on a green with a severe ridge. It landed 10 feet below the hole.

What drew the louder cheer was his consecutive wedges that danced around the hole and set up tap-in birdies. The only blemish for Garcia came at the end of his round, when he couldn't reach the ninth green from the rough and missed an 8-foot par putt.

Even so, it was a strong start that continued a much-needed turnaround.

A week ago, Garcia wasn't guaranteed a spot in the 125-man field to start the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedEx Cup (Paul Casey is not here because of injury). He was at No. 115, his best finish a tie for 10th in the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.

That's why he played in Greensboro, N.C., where he built a three-shot lead before finishing in fourth, one shot out of a playoff. The Spaniard made another quick impression at Liberty National.

"We are getting back into it," Garcia said. "Last week was nice. It was good to see ourselves ... getting that feeling of being out there trying to win a tournament and getting the juices flowing a little bit. We're just looking forward to hopefully finishing the year well here, keep this good momentum going."

Woods doesn't have much traction at the moment.

In his first start since losing the Sunday lead in a major for the first time in his career, he hit the ball beautifully without getting much out of it. Then he hit a few crooked off the tee, and paid for it.

Woods dropped only one shot a bogey on the par-4 seventh when he drove into a bunker but he also missed the fairway on the two par 5s near the end of his round and missed good chances at birdie.

"You've got to make hay on the par 5s here," Woods said in a brief interview with XM Radio. "You don't get too many opportunities around this place, and I only made one birdie on the par 5s."

He probably would have taken a 70 after his first time around Liberty National, a course that has received scant praise from the players this week. The best anyone has said about the course designed by Tom Kite and Bob Cupp is that it is hard.

"It's a long, hard golf course with difficult greens," Goydos said. "I don't think Tom Kite was thinking, 'Let's see how easy I can make this course.' I don't think that was his mindset.'"

Even so, it was alarming to see so many scores in the 60s Padraig Harrington leading the group at 67, Justin Leonard at 68, Steve Stricker the No. 2 seed behind Woods among those at 69.

Goydos wasn't all that surprised.

"In theory, you have 125 of the best players on the PGA Tour here this week, someone is going to shoot a low round every day," Goydos said. "Today was my chance."

Associated Press