Miami - Sergio Garcia grabbed an eagle -
and avoided the alligators - to share the first-round lead with 2013 winner
Michael Thompson on Thursday in the PGA Tour Honda Classic at Palm Beach
Spain's Garcia got off to a quick start,
holing an eight-iron from 148 yards out in the fairway for an eagle at the
par-four second hole.
He added four more birdies, with his only
bogey coming at the par-four sixth - where he cautiously waded into a water
hazard to hit his partially submerged ball, keeping a wary eye out for
alligators all the while.
"I was more worried about the
alligator that was on the other side of the island than getting out of the
water," said Garcia, who fired out with a splash.
On a day when windy weather made the going
tough on the par-70 Champion course at PGA National, Garcia wasn't complaining
about one bogey.
He capped his round with a final birdie at
18 - where he drained a six-footer to walk off the course with the lead.
Thompson joined him after a round that
included an eagle, two bogeys and five birdies -- seizing his share of top spot
with his own birdie at 18.
"I just went out and tried to play
golf," said Thompson, whose lone PGA Tour victory came at PGA National in 2013.
"I think I did that pretty good."
The leaders were one shot clear of Rickie
Fowler and William McGirt.
Garcia's playing partner Fowler had four
birdies in his bogey-free 66, saving par by holing out from the rough at the
10th, while McGirt's seven birdies included three in a row to end his round.
Five players shared fifth place on
three-under 67: Ireland's Shane Lowry, Sweden's David Lingmerth and Americans
George McNeill, Jimmy Walker and Justin Hicks.
Lowry, Lingmerth and McNeill played in the
worst of the morning winds, but Lowry finished strong with a birdie at 17 and
an eagle at the par-five 18th, where he hit his second shot three feet from the
"I'm just happy to shoot under par
today," Lowry said. "It's very tough mentally, every shot requires a
good shot. You don't get away with any bad shots out there."
McNeill had a double-bogey at the par-four
11th, but balanced that with six birdies and said his putter was the key to his
"To see them go in and consistently go
in - I didn't expect to make that many," McNeill said.
Defending champion Padraig Harrington, who
also won the title in 2005, got off to a rocky start with a three-over 73.
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, whose win
at PGA National in 2012 propelled him to number one in the world for the first
time, carded a two-over 72 that included a double-bogey at 14, five birdies and
five bogeys - including one at the last.
No wonder Phil Mickelson was pleased with a
"It was very, very challenging,"
Mickelson said. "I felt very confident working it into the wind and did it
a number of times today. The ball-striking took a lot of pressure off my short
game. To keep it around par - it was a good first day."
Germany's Alex Cejka posted his second
hole-in-one in the past four months by acing the 177-yard par three, 17th hole,
the final hole of a challenging three hole section known as the Bear Trap.
Cejka also made a hole-in-one in October on
the par-three 17th at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Leading first-round scores on Thursday in the US PGA Tour Honda
Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (USA unless
65 - Sergio Garcia (ESP), Michael Thompson
66 - William McGirt, Rickie Fowler
67 - George McNeill, Shane Lowry (IRL), David Lingmerth (SWE), Jimmy Walker, Justin Hicks
68 - Jason Dufner, Kim Si-Woo (KOR), Adam Hadwin (CAN), Erik Compton
- Sean O'Hair, Justin Thomas, Phil Mickelson, Paul Casey (ENG), Sam
Saunders, Ollie Schniederjans, Greg Owen (ENG), Darron Stiles, Vijay