It had been 15 years since Sergio Garcia last played the Plantation Course at Kapalua, home of the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Garcia, the 2002 tournament winner, didn’t skip a beat, saying “Aloha” to a 6-under 67 and a share of the first-round lead in Hawaii.
“It’s great to be back,” Garcia said. “I’ve obviously had the possibility of coming way before this year, but being in Europe it’s a very long way away to come for maybe one or two weeks.”
Garcia, who qualified for the tournament by winning the Sanderson Farms Championship in October, had skipped the winners-only gathering in previous years because he traditionally spends Christmas in his native Spain and estimated it is a 22-hour trip to Maui from there. But this year, due to COVID-19, he was unable to travel to Europe and arrived at Kapalua early from his home in Texas.
“This year, it was a little bit easier because we were in Austin because of everything that’s going on in the world and it made it a lot easier for me and the family to be here and just have a nice couple of weeks,” he explained.
Garcia’s round began inauspiciously with a three-putt bogey at the first and was 2-over par through three holes. But he turned his day around with a chip-in eagle from the hazard fronting the fifth green and then was off to the races.
“It was a great shot that obviously had a little bit of luck involved because I was going through a couple of those weeds with my club,” Garcia said of the chip-in from 53 feet away.
Garcia, who turns 41 on Saturday, tacked on six more birdies over his final 13 holes, tying Robert Streb, Nick Taylor and Ryan Palmer with opening-round 67’s. It was good enough for the second-lowest score of the day, trailing only Harris English, who was 7-under through 16 holes.
It’s been nearly 20 years since Garcia won here in his tournament debut and the memories of that triumph came flooding back, especially when he was shown some clips from that special week, including the winning putt in a playoff.
“I looked really young, which was nice,” he said with a laugh. “Made a clutch putt on 18 to give myself a shot at being in the playoff with David Toms and then the putt I made.”
If Garcia continues his torrid pace on Thursday over the next three days, he could be booking his return trip a lot sooner than another 15 years.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/01/07/sergio-garcia-sentry-tournament-champions-thursday-67/