CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (AP) — Sergio Garcia went from sobs to smiles, from his worst score as a professional to his best start ever in a major championship. Thursday at the British Open was quite a turnaround for him and Carnoustie, too.
Eight years after no one broke par in the opening round on a course that became known as “Car-Nasty,” Garcia lit up the rain-softened links for seven birdies and a sparkling par save from the bunker on the 18th hole for a 6-under 65 and a two-shot lead over Paul McGinley.
They don’t hand out the claret jug after 18 holes, but Garcia was in line for another award.
“Most improved,” he said.
He was 24 shots better than his first round in 1999, and that 89 remains his highest score as a pro.
The 83 he shot the next day remains his second-worst score.
As Garcia greeted his mother when he walked off the 18th green on a gray, chilly Thursday afternoon, there was no need to cry on her shoulder. It was the first time he was atop the leaderboard after any round of any major since he shot 66 to lead after the first day of the ’99 PGA Championship when he was 19 years old and playing only his second major as a pro.
Tiger Woods, bidding to become the first player in more than 50 years to win the British Open three straight times, added another signature moment to the majors when he holed a 90-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th that sent him to a 69.
“I was trying to get it up there close, anywhere where I could have an easy second putt,” Woods said. “Lo and behold, it falls in.”
Carnoustie is no cream puff, but it must have felt that way to those who were here in 1999, when the cut was 12 over and the winning score 6-over 294.
The grass is not nearly as high or as thick, the fairways not nearly as narrow. And the biggest change might have been the wind, which was truly nothing more than a wee breeze along the shores of the North Sea.