Garcia shoots 66 to share clubhouse lead at Singapore Open

In this Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, photo, Spain's Sergio Garcia practices for the Singapore Open golf tournament in Singapore. Garcia kicked off his 2018 season in style on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, shooting a 5-under 66 to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Singapore Open. (Kyodo News via AP)

SINGAPORE — Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

"I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly," said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par-5s and one of the par-3s on the second nine. "But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round."

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

"I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course," Kitayama said. "I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf."

Must Read

Nadal, Federer cruise into Shanghai Masters quarterfinals

Oct 12, 2017

Rafael Nadal has won his 14th consecutive match to reach the Shanghai Masters quarterfinals,...

Del Potro goes for scan after wrist hurt in fall in Shanghai

Oct 13, 2017

Rafael Nadal has tied Andre Agassi for sixth place on the list of all-time Open Era wins by...

Federer beats Nadal to win Shanghai Masters title

Oct 15, 2017

Roger Federer extended his winning streak over Rafael Nadal this year to four matches after beating...

Fortunes can change quickly in the world of golf

Oct 25, 2017

Johnson, Matsuyama, Rahm lead the field at HSBC Champions in final World Golf Championship of the...

For most of the F1 teams, 4th place is as good as it gets

Apr 13, 2018

For most of the Formula One 'also-ran' teams, 4th place is as good as it gets

AseanCoverage is a next-gen news site focusing exclusively on online news from South East Asia.

Contact us: sales[at]aseancoverage.com