Open champion, Paul Lawrie, and teenage star, Sergio Garcia, led the European challenge at Firestone Country Club, Akron, Ohio, as the storm-delayed first round of the World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational was completed.
Lawrie and Garcia both fired superb three under par 67s in overcast, humid conditions as play resumed at 7.30 local time. That left them just one behind first round leader Tiger Woods, who led with a four under par 66.
It was Lawrie’s lowest round in the United States and underlined his new-found status as a leading player. The Scot finished three ahead of the US Open champion, thanks mainly to a run of three successive birdies from the ninth.
Garcia, second to Woods in the US PGA, birdied two holes in an inward 34 and now tees off with Woods in the final group in the second round along with Tom Lehman, who also shot 67.
David Duval, Nick Price and Jim Furyk were on the 67 mark also, while Colin Montgomerie birdied the final hole from eight feet for a 69 to stay right in the picture.
Course record holder, Jose Maria Olazabal, was two over after four but picked up shots in a fine recovery to finish on level par while Andrew Coltart bogeyed the last for 71.
Other European scores were: 72 – Miguel Angel Jimenez, Padraig Harrington; 73 – Darren Clarke; 74 – Lee Westwood; 75 – Jesper Parnevik, Jean Van de Velde.