Five find route to 66 in Miami

3/7/2013 11:07:00 PM
Graeme McDowell and Sergio Garcia  (Getty Images)
Graeme McDowell and Sergio Garcia (Getty Images)

Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell and Tiger Woods were among a five-way tie atop a star-studded leaderboard following the opening round of the WGC – Cadillac Championship.

Perfect conditions greeted the players at the famed Blue Monster course and, unsurprisingly given the quality of the field, they took full advantage.

Garcia, McDowell and Woods struck 66, as did Bubba Watson and Fredrik Jacobson to leave things beautifully poised.

While all five players undoubtedly possess the quality to win the event, it is the sight of Woods at the summit that is most notable given his previous success in the tournament.

The 14 time Major Champion has won this event six times and boasts an unrivalled record having won 16 WGC titles in all - 13 more than the next best, Geoff Ogilvy.

Only one of those came at Trump Doral, in this competition six years ago, but that did not seem to matter today as he became the first person to deliver a six under par total that would prove the day’s benchmark.

Having parred the his first hole - the tenth - he holed from 15 and 10 feet to move two under after three, only to bogey the next two. Undeterred, he picked up shots on the 16th and 18th to complete an outward 34. 

That seemingly gave the 37 year old the lift he needed for an even better back nine, the hallmark of which was outstanding approach play; he gained five shots on the way in, with a bogey on three his sole misdemeanour.

Woods said: “I figured that something (his score) was going to have to be, at worst, around 68, 69. Just the way it was playing, and we were the first ones out, so we had fresh greens.

“This is probably the easiest wind we'll have; some of the hardest holes were playing downwind, and it really wasn't blowing that hard most of the day.”

While Woods’ round was up and down, those produced by his three European challengers were remarkably stress-free.

Garcia and McDowell never dropped a shot in exemplary displays, while Jacobson’s effort contained just one bogey, which was largely overshadowed by eagles on the eighth and tenth that combined with birdies on one, five and 15.

Much like Woods, McDowell lauded the conditions. 

“They were fairly benign conditions today,” he admitted. “The greens were firm and fast; the pins were tucked away in places.  But, you know, it was kind of there for the taking, if you play good golf today.”

Garcia disagreed somewhat with McDowell’s assessment, adding: “I think we've played it here where it's been easier than this, and where the greens were softer and not as fast.

“If you drove the ball well, you could score.  But if you missed a lot of fairways, you could easily shoot even par or one or two over and that puts you quite a bit back.”

By his standards, Watson’s performance was also remarkably consistent as he, too, dropped only one shot; it did, though, feature a typical mix of invention and class, epitomised by a glorious bunker shot to two feet that set up birdie on 16.

Sitting just a shot further back were Phil Mickelson - whose wedge from the pavement to five feet was the day’s most eye catching stroke - Steve Stricker, Peter Hanson and Hunter Mahan.

Defending champion Justin Rose was four under alongside compatriot and fellow Ryder Cup winner Ian Poulter.