NORTON — In a perfect world, Sergio Garcia would be far, far away from TPC Boston this week, catching up on some much-needed rest. But he’s here, so he might as well make the most of it.
Garcia is off to a fast start, shooting a 6-under-par 65 at TPC Boston on Friday. That was good for a tie for fourth after one round of the Deutsche Bank Championship, two shots behind co-leaders Phil Mickelson and Brian Davis, who set the pace with 63s — Mickelson’s early, Davis’s late — on a perfect day for low scoring.
Ideally, Garcia would be high enough on the FedEx Cup points list where he could have skipped this event (like he did last year) and still been guaranteed a spot in the next playoff tournament, which is reserved for only the top 70 players. Sitting at No. 55, Garcia figured that was cutting it too close, so he felt like he needed to be here.
It’s the fifth straight week Garcia is playing in a PGA Tour event, following lackluster showings at Bridgestone, PGA Championship, Wyndham (where he was the defending champion), and Barclays. The grind has taken its toll.
“A little bit tired. I’m looking forward to the rest. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take it [this week],” Garcia said. “Three [straight] is usually my max, so this year obviously I would love to play a little bit better and maybe take this week off. Wasn’t able to do that, so we try our best.”
His best was pretty stout on Friday. Garcia’s strength has always been ball striking, and he offered a typical display in the first round: 11 of 14 fairways hit, 16 of 18 greens in regulation. Quite normal, he described it.
Most of the time, it depends on how well Garcia putts. He dropped a 45-footer at the par-5 second, which began a run of four straight birdies. He added shorter putts at Nos. 3 (4 feet), 4 (3 feet), and 5 (14 feet), then added a 2-footer for birdie at the par-5 seventh.
He began his round at No. 10, turning in 34. Garcia’s inward 31 left him a shot short of his lowest round at TPC Boston, a second-round 64 in 2008, when he tied for fifth, his best showing here in four previous appearances.
“Today was very nice. I felt like I hit the ball quite well,” Garcia said. “Obviously some days are better than others, but today was one of those good days, and we will enjoy it.”
Because of the tournament’s Friday start, Garcia was able to take a couple of days in New York to spend with his girlfriend after the Barclays. He arrived Wednesday night, played in Thursday’s pro-am, then came out and nearly played bogey-free on Friday, dropping a lone shot at the 15th, when he drove into a fairway bunker.
With Mickelson and Kevin Stadler (64) making a bunch of early birdies, Garcia — and everyone else playing in the afternoon wave — knew that low scores would be abundant. Get ’em while you can.
“I could see that they were posting a good number there. With fresh greens and not too firm, if you play well, you could do something like what Phil did, or Kevin,” Garcia said. “This kind of course, if you play well, if you hit the ball well, you can put up a good number.”
Garcia’s best play in 2013 so far came early: a tie for third at Doral, a tie for seventh at Tampa Bay, a pair of T8s at the Masters and Players. It’s been an uphill climb since then.
“I think it’s been a pretty decent season. Started very well in both Europe and America, then things kind of slowed down a little in this summer,” Garcia said. “Hopefully I can finish on a high note and get ready for next year.”
Garcia, since jumping into the golf scene — literally — as a 19-year-old in 1999, has eight PGA Tour victories. Mickelson has 42. Davis is still looking for his first in this, his 277th tour start. He tied Mickelson late in the day with birdies on Nos. 8 and 9, his final two holes.
Like Garcia, Davis was well aware of the low scores being posted. He didn’t put much thought into them, though. Not on Friday.
“This is my, I think, 18th year on tour. So, no. You’re aware, but it’s the first round,” said Davis, who does have five second-place finishes in his career. “If we were going into the last round you have to pay attention to what’s going on. Obviously, the course is going to get tougher as the week goes on. You know you’ve got to shoot low numbers every day.”
Many in the field did that, with 22 rounds of 66 or better, and 67 players breaking par. Luke Donald (71), Rickie Fowler (71), Graeme McDowell (72), and Masters champion Adam Scott (73) couldn’t do it, so they’ll need a second-round rebound.