CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — Sergio Garcia has a two-shot lead at the end of the first round of the British Open after signing for a stunning six-under-par 65. It is a 24-stroke improvement on his first round 89 at Carnoustie in 1999.
“I only mentioned that round once to my caddie after I rolled in my birdie put on the 1st hole,” Garcia said. “I said, ‘Well, that’s four better than last time.’ But this week is not about revenge.”
This is the first time since the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah that Garcia has had such a fast start at a major. He hit 13 out of 15 fairways and found 13 greens in regulation in a round of 10 pars, seven birdies and just one bogey, which came when he failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker at the 16th.
But the signs weren’t so encouraging before he teed off.
He said he had a poor practice session here and felt uncomfortable in the left-to-right wind. And he made the decision to put his new belly putter in play for the first time in a major.
“I took the decision to go to a belly putter after the U.S. Open,” he said. “There is nothing I hate more than not being able to start the ball on line.”
Garcia tested it out last week in the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond and said that he is “starting to get a routine with it that feels comfortable.”
It certainly worked well for him in the first round. He had just 27 putts, no three-putts and holed the sort of 8- and 10-footers that have derailed him in recent years. So why didn’t he take the belly putter plunge sooner?
“I don’t know,” he said. “Vijay (Singh) has been telling me for a year or two to do it, but I haven’t been listening to him.”
But Garcia wasn’t pleased to be reminded that no player has ever won a major while brandishing the oft-derided belly putter.
“It’s just stats and stupid little things that you guys like to talk about — like a European hasn’t won a major in so many years,” he said. “I really don’t care. It’s just about getting the ball in the hole. If I have to use a plastic bag to get it in the hole, I’ll use whatever. Hopefully I will be the one to change that stat.”
Garcia praised Carnoustie, saying it was in the best shape of any links course he has ever seen.
“To win for Spain in the week that Seve (Ballesteros) announced his retirement from the game would be amazing, like a fairytale,” Garcia said.