A bogey was all he had to show after his first seven holes at Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong Course yesterday, but reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia recovered superbly to end the day with a five-under 66 and a share of the lead in the first round of the SMBC Singapore Open.
"I was one over after seven, but I didn't feel like I was playing badly, I felt like I hit a few good shots, but unfortunately couldn't get anything out of them," said the 38-year-old Spaniard.
"I obviously hit two great six-irons in a row on the 17th and 18th - I went birdie-eagle there - and then I was able to play really solid on the back nine after that."
The world No. 10 added: "It's a good day to start my year, I'm very pleased with the way I handled it, the way I played. I stayed positive, stayed very calm, very measured through the whole day, and I'm happy with the finish."
Garcia made his Singapore Open debut last year and finished tied-11th. He has a solid record in Asia, having won five titles on the Asian Tour (2002 Kolon Cup Korea Open, 2008 HSBC Champions in Shanghai, 2012 Iskandar Johor Open, 2013 Thailand Golf Championship and 2015 Ho Tram Open in Vietnam).
He gave flight-mate Ryo Ishikawa a friendly pat on the backside as he walked out of the scoring hut, in what appears to be a growing respect between the former Japanese teenage prodigy and the Spaniard.
"It was great, I think he played very nicely, just a couple of tee shots that cost him a little bit on the third hole," said Garcia of the 26-year-old, who carded a two-under 69.
1ST RD: SELECTED EARLY SCORES
(78 players yet to complete weather-disrupted round) 66 Sergio Garcia (Esp), Kurt Kitayama (USA) 68 Casey O'Toole (USA), Koumei Oda (Jpn), Jyoti Randhawa (Ind) 69 Ryo Ishikawa (Jpn), Liang Wenchong (Chn) 69, a-Gregory Foo (Sgp) 69
71 Gavin Green (Mas)
"He made some really good putts and made birdie at the last hole, that wasn't an easy hole, I think he should be happy with his round."
Ishikawa called Garcia his "biggest hero" for the Spaniard's longevity in the sport but was keen to also stamp his mark in Singapore.
"He played so strong, especially on the par-fives… he almost hit two eagles. If my irons and putter work, maybe I can still beat him," said the Japanese with a chuckle.
Malaysian Gavin Green, who won the Asian Tour Order of Merit last year, was the final member of the threesome. He had three birdies but also three bogeys and signed for a 71.