HOYLAKE, England -- Sergio Garcia has made no secret of his love for the Ryder Cup, and the emotional Spaniard appears headed to his seventh at Gleneagles in September.
The Open Championship, though, runs a very close second in his mind's eye. So the 68 Garcia shot in the opening round at Royal Liverpool on Thursday that left him two strokes off Rory McIlroy's lead was certainly a boost.
"Even on the tough years, this championship, it's different to me," Garcia explained. "... You always come with a different frame of mind here, even if you're struggling a little bit. I enjoy the people out there. It almost feels like a Ryder Cup when people start shouting 'Come on, lads.'"
Garcia gave them plenty to cheer about on Thursday, too. He made three birdies on the front nine, then bounced back from his lone bogey at No. 10 by chipping in at the next hole.
"Fortunately, it went straight in the middle and hit the pin and went in," the eight-time PGA TOUR champ said. "That was a really nice moment to kind of keep the good momentum going and kind of forget that bogey."
Garcia, who made his final birdie on an 18-foot putt at the 13th hole, was extremely steady tee to green, too. He hit 86 percent of his fairways and 72 percent of his greens in regulation.
"Every time you start a major championship and an Open with a 4 under, you've got to be pleased with it," Garcia said. "Obviously a couple of birdie chances on the last three that I would have liked to do better with. But I got a little lucky on 18, too, with my tee shot. I can't really complain too much about it."
The 34-year-old Garcia is playing in his 18th Open Championship this week. He's posted seven top-10 finishes in the game's oldest major, including a tie for fifth at Royal Liverpool in 2006 -- the year before Garcia lost a playoff to Padraig Harrington at Carnoustie.
Garcia's major record as a whole is equally impressive. He's played in 63 prior to this week and has 18 total top-10s, including three runner-up finishes, although Garcia has yet to pick up the breakthrough win.
"It would be nice to put myself in a position to have a solid chance on Sunday like I did a couple of times, and like I did in 2006 here," Garcia said.
"But still, it's only the first day. So we're going to go a little step by step and hopefully keep shooting good scores, depending on how the weather is, and then see ... if we have a good, solid chance on Sunday."