Sergio Garcia served up another reminder that he is back on top form heading into next week’s Masters when he took the second-round lead at the US$6.4 million Shell Houston Open in Humble, Texas, on Friday.
The Spaniard was in control of all facets of his game as he reeled off an eagle and five birdies for a seven-under-par 65 in breezy morning conditions at the Golf Club of Houston.
Garcia recorded a 12-under 132 half-way total, one stroke ahead of the US’ Matt Kuchar and four in front of the rest of the field.
“I was able for most part of the day to drive the ball fairly well and my iron play was quite good and short game worked nicely again, so I’m very happy with that,” Garcia, 34, told the Golf Channel after sinking a six-footer to save par on his final hole.
“It was the kind of day you needed [to be in control] because there were a lot of tight tee shots and tough second shots into the greens,” the Spanish player said.
Nearly 15 years have passed since a teenage Garcia catapulted into the spotlight in an enthralling battle with Tiger Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship in Medinah, outside Chicago.
Garcia finished runner-up to Woods there and is still seeking a breakthrough major victory.
Mediocre putting and some personal issues hampered his results for several years, but he has regained top form with a vengeance the past seven months, finishing inside the top 20 in his past 12 starts, including two victories.
Nobody is playing better before the Masters next week, but Garcia is not about to make any predictions.
“I’ve just got to try to feel the same way, believe in my ability the same way and hope that things happen,” he said.
Kuchar, who shot 67 in the afternoon, was tied for the lead until he bogeyed the difficult final hole, the lone blemish on his card.
Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson was six strokes off the pace after carding a 70, while Swede Henrik Stenson ended the day one shot inside the cutline after returning a 72.
World No. 3 Stenson will go to the top of the world rankings if he wins today, but he trails Garcia by a distant 11 strokes.