Garcia starts well as locals dominate Australian PGA Championship
Sergio Garcia withstood two rain delays and his earliest career starting time for a 5-under 67 and was a stroke behind the leaders at the Australian PGA Championship.
Adam Bland, who bogeyed his final hole, and fellow Australian Jordan Zunic, who chipped in for eagle on his last, shared the first-round lead on Thursday after afternoon starts.
"I think we definitely had the better side of the draw today," Bland said after his 66. "The conditions were perfect. The greens were soft so we could attack."
Garcia was in a five-way tie for third with Australians Marc Leishman, Peter Senior, Daniel Nisbet and Michael Wright.
Masters champion Garcia, starting on the 10th hole at 6:10am at Royal Pines on Gold Coast and in a group with Adam Scott, had three birdies over his final seven holes.
"Other than a couple of times where it poured down on us, it was a fun day," the Spanish star said. "In a tournament I think probably the earliest I've teed off ... I want to say it was the closest I've had a dinner and a breakfast, ever."
Scott, playing with a long-handled putter, was 1 over through 16 holes before birdieing his final two for a 71. Scott used a broomstick putter when he won the Masters in 2013, but switched to a short putter after a ban on anchoring the putter against the body began in 2016.
"A good start and a good finish, mixed bag in the middle," said Scott, who was 2 under after three holes. "Some positive signs toward the end ... didn't let Sergio get too far ahead. I had a couple of putts that I would have liked to make from 15 feet or so that just slipped by."
Garcia said he wasn't aware that Scott had returned to the longer putter until just before the round began.
"I looked at him throughout the whole day and you could see that he was making sure that he had it away from his chest," Garcia said. "But we know Scotty's a great gentleman, he's a great boy and he's never going to do anything that shouldn't be done."
Defending champion Harold Varner III of the United States shot 71, while Mike Weir of Canada, the 2003 Masters champion, had a 73.
In Xiamen, southeast China's Fujian Province, Asian Tour rookie William Harrold of England exploded into life in the opening round of the Asian Golf Championship by shooting a course-record 8-under 64 to lead by four shot on Thursday.
The 29-year-old Harrold, who came through the Qualifying School earlier in January, rode on his imperious form to sign for a bogey-free round highlighted by eight birdies at the Kaikou Golf Club’s West course.
Thai hotshot Namchok Tantipokhakul fired five birdies against a bogey to sit in second place at the US$350,000 tournament, which marked the first event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the Chinese Golf Association (CGA) in China since 2008.
Seven players, including local prospects Liu Yanwei, Ye Jianfeng and Chinese Taipei’s Hung Chien-yao, shared third place following matching rounds of 69.