LOS ANGELES, May 28 ― Sergio Garcia and Jordan Spieth grabbed a share of the lead at the US PGA Tour's Charles Schwab Challenge yesterday as Phil Mickelson was brought back to earth just days after his record-breaking major win.
Garcia picked up five strokes in a four-hole span to join Spieth at the top of the leaderboard after both men carded seven-under-par 63s.
The Spaniard, who lifted the trophy at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2001, followed birdies at eight, nine and 10 with an eagle hole-out from a bunker at 11 to surge up the leaderboard.
He finished with five birdies in all, tying Spieth for the lead when he rolled in a seven-footer at the 15th.
“I'm not going to lie, conditions weren't easy,” Garcia said. “Obviously because of the rain, the course wasn't too firm, even though it firmed up nicely between yesterday and today.
“There were some tough holes out there, but I was able to hit really good shots on those holes, and a couple up-and-downs when I needed them, so very happy with the way it went,” added Garcia, who ended
Spieth had set an early target with seven birdies in a bogey-free effort.
The Texan, who ended a near four-year victory drought with a win at the Teas Open in April, has seven to-10 finishes in his last 10 starts and looked right at home on the par-70 Colonial course where he won in 2016.
“It's hard to go any lower,” Spieth said, adding that some work to rectify “bad habits” that had crept into his putting stroke had paid off.
He rolled in a 12-footer at his opening hole, the 10th, and said that was a key confidence builder.
“If I could get a couple to go in early in the first round and the confidence and the work I've been doing on my stroke the last few days, which is a somewhat significant change in a stroke feel, I thought that would exude just a little bit of confidence into the rest of the round on greens where I've been very successful on before,” he said.
He added a nine-footer at the 12th and a 19-footer at 17 to make the turn three-under.
After a birdie at the second he finished with a flourish with birdies at his last three holes.
That included a chip-in from the rough at the eighth and a crisp wedge that left him a three-foot birdie putt at the ninth.
The leading duo were two strokes in front of Erik Compton and Jason Kokrak.
Compton, who has had two heart transplants, is playing on a sponsor's exemption and making just his third PGA tour start since 2016.
Spieth played alongside Mickelson, who made history on Sunday by winning the PGA Championship to become, at 50, the oldest man to win a major golf title.
Mickelson endured a tough day with five bogeys in his three-over 73.
“I didn't play well. I shot three-over,” Mickelson said, adding: “but I won the PGA, so ...”
On a more serious note, Mickelson said, he had trouble settling into the round.
“So it was almost like I was trying a little too hard, and I wasn't just calm and let it happen, and I was a little bit antsy,” he said. “I'll work on it. I'm still optimistic I'll have a good round tomorrow, but unfortunately I kind of shot myself in the foot the first day, but you never know.”
Despite his struggles, Mickelson was met by a chorus of congratulations from fans.
“It feels incredible because it's been a long time since somebody has congratulated me for my play,” he said. “That's a moment, that's a week, that's a tournament, that's a win that I'll cherish forever, so I enjoy when people say that.” ― AFP