June 14, 2021

Garcia: TPC Sawgrass suits my eye like Valderrama

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Sergio Garcia, champion in 2008, holds early first-round lead at The Players at TPC Sawgrass after a seven-under 65 which includes two eagles; watch continued live coverage of the first round on Sky Sports The Players

Last Updated: 11/03/21 7:14pm

2:08
Sergio Garcia reflects on an impressive finish to his opening round at The Players and explains why he enjoys playing at TPC Sawgrass so much.

Sergio Garcia reflects on an impressive finish to his opening round at The Players and explains why he enjoys playing at TPC Sawgrass so much.

Sergio Garcia compared TPC Sawgrass to Valderrama after an imperious seven-under 65 earned him the early outright lead at The Players.

The 41-year-old Spaniard, a three-time winner of the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, is targeting a second title at the PGA Tour’s flagship event having won in 2008.

Garcia followed a birdie at the 15th with an eagle at the 16th on his front nine, before he recovered from a three-putt bogey at the first with a birdie at the par-five second to get to three under through his opening 11 holes.

While playing partner and defending champion Rory McIlroy toiled to a seven-over 79, Garcia rose to the top of the leaderboard with a brilliant birdie-birdie-eagle finish.

Sergio Garcia won his first event on US soil since the 2017 Masters with victory at the Sanderson Farms Championship last October Sergio Garcia won his first event on US soil since the 2017 Masters with victory at the Sanderson Farms Championship last October

Sergio Garcia won his first event on US soil since the 2017 Masters with victory at the Sanderson Farms Championship last October

“Valderrama and this course are some of my top favourite ones,” said Garcia, who was also runner-up at the 2007 Players Championship.

“It just kind of fits my eye. I see what I want to do pretty much every hole and then it’s a matter of doing it, but it definitely I feel more comfortable and I’ve done well.”

2:04
A look back at the best of the action from Sergio Garcia’s opening-round 65 at The Players, seeing the Spaniard set the clubhouse target

A look back at the best of the action from Sergio Garcia’s opening-round 65 at The Players, seeing the Spaniard set the clubhouse target

Garcia, who has made the cut at the tournament for 16 consecutive years, added: “It feels like if you are hitting greens you are having birdie chances, you’re not like struggling from 50, 60, 70 feet like some of the other courses we play where the greens are just huge.

“So that obviously kind of suits my, the way I like to play and today I was able to do that, hit some good iron shots, drove the ball nicely, hit some good iron shots and give myself a lot of those 15, 12 to 20-footers for eagles and birdies and I was able to roll three or four of them and that obviously helps.”

A closing eagle at the par-five ninth capped a fine first round from Garcia A closing eagle at the par-five ninth capped a fine first round from Garcia

A closing eagle at the par-five ninth capped a fine first round from Garcia

Meanwhile, Viktor Hovland, who like Garcia will be targeting playing for Europe at this year’s Ryder Cup, was pleased to card a two-under 70 on his tournament debut at the Florida course.

Viktor Hovland has top-five finishes in four of his last six starts Viktor Hovland has top-five finishes in four of his last six starts

Viktor Hovland has top-five finishes in four of his last six starts

The 23-year-old Norwegian recovered from a “very sloppy” double-bogey seven at the par-five 11th – his second hole – after finding the water hazard with his second shot.

Hovland, already a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, bounced back to make three birdies on his front nine before concluding his round with a closing birdie at the ninth.

“I have been hitting it pretty solid the last few months and just one shot that I’ve kind of been struggling with that longer club off the going into par-5s, it’s just like that thin little heel shot, and of course it happened there at the wrong time.

“It’s very easy to lose your confidence after that but I managed to tell myself that I have been playing very well and just see the shots that I want to see and I managed to reset pretty quickly.”

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