By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Sergio Garcia nearly picked up where he left off a year ago when he departed Sedgefield Country Club as the winner of the Wyndham Championship.
Instead, his 65 on Thursday left the Spaniard one stroke off the lead held by Chris Stroud as Garcia began his title defense, bidding to be the first to repeat since Sam Snead in the 1950s.
Snead won the tournament a PGA TOUR record eight times but Garcia is starting to show the same kind of affinity for the tournament the Slammer did. The round of 5 under was Garcia's eighth in the 60s in the nine rounds he's played at Sedgefield during the Wyndham Championship.
Garcia has played Sedgefield three times -- winning once and finishing one shot out of a playoff in his other start while on the PGA TOUR and finishing solo third as an 18-year-old amateur in a Web.com Tour event.
Garcia only missed one green and two fairways on Thursday, and his round could have been lower had his putter cooperated with fewer than those 31 putts he took.
"You have to obviously drive the ball well on this course to put yourself in good positions to attack some of the pins," Garcia said. "If you manage to do that and hit some good iron shots you're going to have some birdie putts but if you hit it -- hit above the hole, it's not like it used to be with the bent grass.
"The greens are so much faster than they used to be and some of the spots you just kind of lagging it trying to hopefully make it. So, you know, you have to pay attention to some of those things."
Garcia didn't make a bogey on Thursday but he stopped short of saying his round was easy. His birdie putts came from 5, 13, 2, 14 and 3 feet --- the latter the result of a two-putt from 49 feet at the par-5 15th.
"Obviously I made some good two putts from long range," Garcia said. "I did hit the ball pretty nicely which was nice to see and holed a couple nice putts here and there. But, overall, I'm very happy with the round and hoping to do some of the same, more of the same tomorrow."