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February 14 2013

9:50 PM

Birdie barrage gets Garcia going

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- The fog was so thick he couldn't see where his drive landed on the ninth hole late Thursday afternoon.

But Sergio Garcia eventually found his ball safely in the fairway just pass the bunker, and he took an 8-iron and launched it through the heavy air. The result was a birdie putt of 7 feet the Spaniard made to put the finishing touches on a round of 65 that left him one shot off Matt Kuchar's lead at the Northern Trust Open.

Garcia, who is making his 2013 PGA TOUR debut but already has a runner-up finish overseas, opened his round with a string of three straight birdies. He hit his drive over the green at the 10th hole and chipped to 2 feet for the first, then got up and down from the bunker at the par-5 11th hole for the second before making a 15-footer at No. 12.

Garcia, who broke a four-year victory drought at last year's Wyndham Championship, added four more birdies on the front nine, two of which came after the temperature dropped dramatically and the marine layer arrived. He hit eight fairways and 12 greens in regulation while using just 25 putts.

"Obviously very happy with it, and first tournament in the U.S. this year, it was nice to start like that with three nice birdies," Garcia said. "Then I managed to play quite good, not extremely well. I hit my drivers pretty good, obviously some drives here and there that I would like to hit a little bit better. ...

"Overall I managed to hit some nice chips and hit some nice putts here and there. So very pleased with the round."

The last time Garcia played at Riviera, he closed with a 64 and tied for fourth, his second top-10 there in seven starts and his fourth finish of 20th or better. He says he likes the course, "so I guess that helps a lot.
 
"It's the kind of golf course that if you play well, you can shoot a decent score, but if you are not on, you can struggle quite a bit," he said. "So it's a great test to start the year for me, and it's not an easy golf course. So that those are the kind of courses that I enjoy playing."

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