Sergio Garcia shares second place as signs of a revival continue

Sergio Garcia shot a second-best 67 yesterday.
Sergio Garcia shot a second-best 67 yesterday.

DUBAI // A year or so before Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer started climbing to the top of the world rankings, Sergio Garcia had looked like the man most likely to overhaul Tiger Woods.

Garcia, however, has endured an even more difficult time than Woods since their last victories, plummeting from second place to his current position of 79th. During that time, he went into self-imposed exile from the tour and considered quitting altogether.

The encouragement of a top-10 finish behind Thomas Bjorn in last week's Qatar Masters was followed by an unblemished opening round of 67 in the Dubai Desert Classic, which left the Spaniard best placed to challenge Rory McIlroy, the early leader, over the next three days.

Garcia has been fooled by several false dawns during his dark days and kept the lid on his excitement as he prepared for this afternoon's second round. He shares second place with South Africa's Thomas Aiken.

"I'm not going to say it was great because I hit a couple of drives that I didn't enjoy," Garcia said. "But overall it was good and especially so because I played my best golf when the wind picked up.

"This is a very challenging course because the fairways are not very wide and the rough is quite tough so you have to be happy to get off to a start as good as this."

Garcia, now into a third year since winning the last of his 20 professional titles, is bracing himself for the need to take the odd step backwards as he continues on his golfing road to redemption.

"I'm slowly getting there but there is still much need for improvement," he said. "There will be some not so nice rounds coming.

"This is just the beginning but we are working on a couple of things that feel better."

Aiken, who in the more difficult afternoon conditions emulated Garcia's bogey-free round of 67, expressed delight at hitting the ball as well as he has done in the past 12 months, despite this being his sixth successive week on tour.

"I've got another two weeks to play back home," he said, adding that he suffered from severely depleted energy levels.

"But you don't feel that when you play as solidly as I did today. I hit every green and hit two of the par fives in two. I can't think of any shot that I put out of position."

It appeared that there would be a three-way tie for second place when Spain's Pablo Martin arrived on the 18th tee having rattled off three successive birdies to get to five under, but he made a bogey on the 18th and dropped into a six-way share of fourth place.

Published: February 11, 2011 04:00 AM


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