Sergio Garcia wasn’t having any of it. Sure his opening-round 64 at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City, South Africa was the best first-day score the 38-year-old Spaniard has posted in a European Tour event since November 2015. And the four-stroke advantage over a trio of golfers at the Gary Player Country Club matched the biggest first-round lead of any tournament during the 2017-’18 season. Oh, and Sergio has won twice before on this course before the event joined the European Tour’s Race to Dubai playoff event. But in no way, shape or form was Garcia going to hint that the tournament was over after just 18 holes.
“It’s nice, but it’s still the first day,” Garcia said. “There’s still a lot of golf to be played and a lot of tough days to come around. Obviously it's nice to start like that, I’m not going to lie, but there’s still a lot of golf to be played.”
Even so, there was plenty for Garcia to be proud of in his bogey-free round. Three of his eight birdies were rolled in from outside 12 feet. “I managed to keep the ball in play nicely,” Garcia said. “I hit a lot of greens, which is important to do here with the little spots that you can put the pins in, and I managed to roll some nice putts.”
Garcia arrived with momentum having won the Andalucia Valderrama Masters in his previous European Tour start. And before that, Garcia won three points for the Europeans in their Ryder Cup victory in France, becoming the competitions all-time leading scorer.
Sitting in 30th place in the Race to Dubai standings starting the week, Garcia has no mathematical chances of winning the year-long points race; his slow start to 2018, with just one top-10 finish in a stroke-play event during the first six months of the year, was too big of an anchor to float back to the top. And then there was his play on the PGA Tour, in which he missed cuts in seven of his first 12 starts.
But Garcia has already altered the narrative of a disappointing season with his recent play—in his last eight stroke-play rounds on the European Tour he’s now 35 under par. Another solid tournament will only further change people’s perceptions of what 2018 was all about.