Garcia, Leishman share Masters lead
AUGUSTA, Ga. - The beauty of azaleas and dogwoods in the spring at Augusta National Golf Club suggests peace and serenity, but Sergio Garcia was anything but serene last year as he wrapped up a frustrating weekend at the Masters.
Standing third after 36 holes, Garcia dropped to 19th after a third-round 75 and told Spanish reporters, "I'm not good enough" to win a major. The next day with the English-speaking media, he said, "I can't really play much better than I played this week and I'm going to finish 13th or 15th."
However, Garcia, who tied for 12th last year, found some peace upon his return to competition Thursday, firing a bogey-free, 6-under-par 66 to tie Australian Marc Leishman for the first-round lead on a warm, overcast day when expected storms darted around this city.
With little wind early in the day and just a light breeze later, low scores were there for the taking. Thirty-three of the 93 contestants broke par, including Tiger Woods, who began his quest for his fifth Masters title with a 70 that left him in a tie for 13th.
Garcia, 33, doesn't have a green jacket. In fact, he comes into this tournament 0 for 58 in major championships, the second-longest streak among active players, trailing only Lee Westwood's 0 for 60.
His aggravation reached the boiling point here last year, and he explained Thursday that it was one of those "frustrating moments" that came after he shot himself out of the tournament.
"Maybe I didn't say it the right way," he said. "Every time I tee it up, I try to play as well as I can, hope that my best that week is really, really good and if I manage to do that, I will have a chance at winning. If my best is not that good, then I'll struggle a little bit.
"Today my best was pretty good and I'm looking forward to doing the same thing the next three days. It will be really nice."
Garcia birdied five of his first 10 holes Thursday and said his play during that time "showed me a lot." While he didn't hit the ball as well the final eight holes, he picked up another birdie and made what he called great saves at 11 and 17.
"The good thing about (Augusta National) is that if you play well, you can score," he said. "But if you're a little bit off, you can struggle quite a bit. So it's a very thin line."
Long-hitting Dustin Johnson played the back-nine par-5s eagle-birdie en route to a 67 that left him one shot out. Crowd favorite Fred Couples, 53, had a 68 - his third subpar opening round in the last four years - to be part of a six-way tie at 68 that included Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar.
Woods, who hasn't won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open and last won here in 2005, played a solid but unspectacular round, picking up three birdies before his lone bogey of the day at No. 14.
He said the most peculiar part of his day was the speed of the greens, which he indicated were not as fast as he expected.
"The greens were a little bit tough in that they just didn't have the sheen to them, didn't have the rollout," he said. "A couple of putts - we were talking about it in our group - just weren't that fast.
"Overall I think the biggest challenge today was the speed of the greens. They just weren't quite there."
Still, the promising statistic for fans of Woods is that in his four Masters victories, he has shot an opening-round 70 three times.