New grip pays dividends for Garcia

Sergio Garcia switched to a weaker grip and produced his lowest round since February at the Verizon Heritage in South Carolina.

Sergio Garcia switched to a weaker grip and produced his lowest round since February as he moved onto the leaderboard at the end of the first day of the Verizon Heritage in South Carolina.
The Spaniard, who tied for 45th at last week’s Masters and is without a victory since the 2008 Players Championship 23 months ago, played with a new grip at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island and shot a four-under-par first-round 67, matching his best round since the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in mid-February.
That put Garcia in a tie for fourth place, three shots behind leader K J Choi of Korea, who maintained his sparkling Masters form with an early 64.
“I shot a decent round, and if I play half decent I should be able to make the cut tomorrow,” Garcia said.
“I thought about it (the grip change) yesterday. It hasn’t been feeling great. I’ve been having a lot of trouble with my right hand.
“So I went from the overlock to the interlock. It’s quite a weaker grip. I lost a little distance. But at least it feels like I’m able to keep my arms and hands a little tighter. So we’ll see what happens.”
The high point of Garcia’s season to date has been the fourth place he secured at the World Golf Championship-Accenture Match Play two months ago in Arizona and the European Ryder Cup star admitted he has not happy with his game.
“We’re working on it but it’s taking time,” he said. “Whenever I figure it out, I’ll let you know.”
Choi, meanwhile, could not be happier with his game. Having tied for fourth place with Tiger Woods at Augusta National last Sunday, five strokes behind champion Phil Mickelson, his purple patch continued further east at Harbour Town.
Choi shot a seven-under-par 64 that included eight birdies and one bogey to take a two-shot lead over England’s Greg Owen and Canada’s Mike Weir.
Owen carded eight birdies and two bogeys while Weir had an eagle at the par-four first, the 10th hole of his round. The 2003 Masters champion holed out from 144 yards on his way to an opening 66.
Garcia shared fourth place with a dozen other players, including five-time tournament winner Davis Love III and another American, Jerry Kelly, who recorded a hole in one at the 193-yard par-three fourth hole having also managed the feat in 2007 when the hole was playing eight yards longer.
Also on four under was world number six Jim Furyk, a week after shooting an 80 at Augusta on his way to missing the Masters cut. Furyk’s round could have been better but for a bogey at the par-four 18th.
England’s Brian Davis shot a 68 and was in a group that also included South Africa’s Trevor Immelman, the 2008 Masters champion.
Martin Laird of Scotland got off to a hot start when he eagled the par-five second and birdied the par-three fourth and par-five fifth. Another birdie came with a three at the 11th but there followed three bogeys to leave the Scot with a two-under 69, the same score carded by England’s Luke Donald and Sweden’s Carl Pettersen.
Pettersen’s compatriot Robert Karlsson and Camilo Villegas of Colombia were home with 70s while another Swede, Daniel Chopra was at level par and defending champion Brian Gay was at one over alongside fellow American John Daly.
Henrik Bjornstad of Norway and Swede Richard S Johnson were at one over while world number seven Paul Casey’s recent troubles continued.
The Englishman had been unable to defend his Shell Houston Open title two weeks ago due to a shoulder injury and he missed the cut at the Masters last week.
Casey carded three birdies, five bogeys and a double bogey on his way to a four-over 75.