NORTON, Mass. — A good start and a great finish was enough for Sergio Garcia to take the lead Saturday in the Deutsche Bank Championship.
For Phil Mickelson, just finishing in the same spot he started was a victory.
On another day with plenty of birdies on the TPC Boston, Garcia opened with five birdies in seven holes, and then made an 18-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole for 7-under 64 and a one-shot lead over former Georgia Tech golfer Roberto Castro and Henrik Stenson.
Garcia is 13-under 129, and it held up as the lead when no one could catch him.
Tiger Woods, in the 1-2-3 grouping with Mickelson and Adam Scott, made a 35-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for 67 and is six shots back.
Mickelson, however, managed to steal the show with 71.
Lefty went on the wildest ride at the TPC Boston, completely losing his swing during one stretch when he at times appeared closer to hitting Rhode Island than hitting a fairway. He went into the hazard to the left of the ninth fairway and into another one right of the 10th fairway. Only a tree kept his tee shot on the par-3 11th hole from disappearing into the woods.
And he still managed even-par 71 by closing with back-to-back birdies, leaving him five shots behind and in a great frame of mind for the final 36 holes.
“I was playing terrible and I shot even par,” Mickelson said. “I could have easily shot myself out of the tournament, knocking them in the hazard I don’t know how many times. If I go on and play the way I believe I am going to this weekend, I am going to look back on those nine holes as the key to the entire tournament.”
Stenson had eight birdies in his 63. Castro was 7-under for his round at the turn and had to settle for 65 after a rough patch in the middle of his back nine. Former Georgia Tech star Matt Kuchar and PGA champion Jason Dufner each had 66. Justin Rose had 63 and is another shot back, along with Jordan Spieth, who had 66.
Garcia is not a regular at the second FedEx Cup playoff event. He prefers to take this week off to rest, but he couldn’t guarantee that he would be among the top 70 in the standings after the Deutsche Bank Championship who advance to the third event. So far, it looks like a good move.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t play well enough and it was touch-and-go if I was going to make the BMW without playing here,” said Garcia, who is at No. 55. “Sixteen guys could easily pass me if they played well. So we decided to come here and make a little bit of an extra effort of playing five weeks in a row, which I don’t usually enjoy very much.”
Garcia looked as if he would be much higher in the FedEx Cup standings earlier this year, when he had top 10s in a World Golf Championship, the Masters and The Players Championship. But his year took a bad turn off the course. During a two-week spat with Woods that began at The Players Championship, Garcia jokingly said during a Q-and-A at an awards dinner in London that he would invite Woods over during for dinner during the U.S. Open and serve fried chicken.
He apologized the next day, though he was clearly rattled. Garcia hasn’t finished in the top 20 since.
“Everything has been kind of a little difficult, but it’s good,” Garcia said. “It’s been a good learning experience. So I think that you always have to try to take the positives out of all those things and learn from your mistakes. And hopefully, (they) make you a better player, a better person.”