IRVING, Texas (AP) — Sergio Garcia opened the Byron Nelson Championship at 4-under 66 without a practice round after an infected finger caused him to withdraw from a British Open qualifier earlier this week.
The 66 put Garcia in a five-way tie for the lead with earlier finishers Thursday, including playing partner Dustin Johnson.
Garcia withdrew from the British Open qualifier after five holes Monday with the infected fingernail on his left hand that made it difficult for him to grip the club. He took about 20 swings on the range Wednesday at TPC Four Seasons before deciding not to play in the Nelson pro-am.
Then on his first hole Thursday, the 418-yard par-4 No. 10, the 2004 Nelson champion made an eagle by holing a sand wedge from 116 yards.
“I guess it’s funny how golf is sometimes. Yeah, rarely practice at all and then we get there and I was fortunate because I hit my driver right but I caught a good lie,” Garcia said. “I had a clear shot over some trees. … I couldn’t have started in a better way.”
The greens on the course were pelted by hail described as half the size of baseballs during storms Tuesday night.
Crews repaired what looked like ball marks on the greens before the pro-am Wednesday and did more work after to get ready for the opening round.
“The greens were great, so, you know, I got to give props to the grounds crew,” Johnson said. “They did a really good job of getting the greens ready, especially after that hail storm. You’ve definitely got to give them a hand.”
Johnson had a double bogey on his second hole after hooking his drive into the water, but was without a bogey the rest of the round. He had six birdie putts averaging more than 19 feet each, the shortest being 8 with a long of 35.
Garcia said he fixed several divots on every hole.
“There are little marks here and there, but it’s fine,” Garcia said. “The good thing is by the end of the week, with all of us repairing all of these things, the course is going to look pretty good. “
Johnson finished under par for the eighth time his last nine rounds at Nelson.
K.J. Choi, who won The Players Championship two weeks ago before skipping Colonial last week, shot a 71 with four bogeys and three birdies in the group with Garcia and Johnson. Defending Nelson champion Jason Day shot a 72 that included a double bogey and four bogeys.