Sergio Garcia’s improved vision is already paying off at the Dubai World Championship.
Playing on the European Tour for the first time since having laser eye surgery a month ago, the Spaniard on Friday matched the course record at the season-ending tournament with an 8-under 64. That left Garcia at 7-under 137 after the second round, three shots behind clubhouse leader Branden Grace of South Africa.
And to Garcia, a golf course has rarely looked so good.
”The sharpness is much better than before,” said Garcia, who first realized he had vision problems in July and decided to undergo surgery after contacts proved uncomfortable. ”Like if I’m aiming for a little spot. Before it would get a little blurry and I would lose it. Now I can see the spots better. I can pick out small things easier than before.”
It was a topsy-turvy day for Garcia, who started strong with four birdies on his first five holes. He then had a string of birdies at the turn before holing a 35-foot putt for eagle on 14 to get him thinking about breaking the course record. But then he dumped it in the water on 16 for a triple bogey before recovering to finish with a birdie and 17-foot putt for eagle.
”Today, I started, really, really well. I played great on the front nine and I hit a lot of good shots. I made a lot of birdies,” Garcia said. ”Then I started with another two birdies on 10 and 11 and got going, and all of sudden I kind of lost it a little bit with the putter, missed a couple of short putts for pars. And then I made a bomb on 14 for eagle.”
With the course record within reach, Garcia hit an 8-iron on 16 from the middle of the fairway that ended up in the water on the right side of the green, and then three-putted for his triple bogey.
”I was thinking I’ll just hit a solid drawing eight iron,” Garcia said of his shot on the 16th. ”Then, I got a little too greedy. I didn’t want to hit it past the pin and tried to smooth it with a little cut. The wind took it and it hit the bank and went in the water.”
But just when it seemed Garcia’s round was unraveling, he rebounded by hitting a six iron on the 17th that rolled to within four feet of the pin for an easy birdie.
”I just thought, you’re still 5-under. Let’s see if you can make maybe one or two birdies coming in,” he said. ”So that was my thinking and I managed to put a couple of really good swings coming in.”
Garcia career in recent years has gone very much like his round on Friday.
Two years ago, the former No. 2 slumped so badly he fell to 80th in the world and was forced to take an administrative role with the Ryder Cup team. But then he won twice last year and was back on the Ryder Cup team this year. His victory over Jim Furyk on that final Sunday in September helped fuel Europe’s stunning come-from-behind victory.
The victory less than two months ago still resonates – he watched a Ryder Cup film with many of his teammates Tuesday. But the Spaniard said it was ”time to move on” and get back to winning tournament golf.
”It’s nice to be able to do what I did today and come back after not playing well yesterday,” said Garcia, whose 73 left him in 49th after the first round. ”Hopefully I’ll be able to do something similar on the weekend and see if we can manage to have a chance.”