Sergio Garcia couldn’t have been much better Thursday in Sun City Center. Friday was a different matter.
Rory McIlroy? Well, Rory couldn’t have been more mediocre after the first round of the Nedbank Challenge, the next-to-last event for this season’s Race To Dubai.
Garcia was solid all day in the first round on his way to an eight-under par 64 — his best opening round on the European Tour since the 2015 BMW Masters.
Everything was clicking for Sergio, whose game has been re-energized following September’s Ryder Cup matches.
“It felt great,” Garcia said, as he was all smiles after his round. “I rolled the ball nicely, I made some good putts here and there.
“It was one of those rounds where things happened nicely to me. I think I played very smart, I probably wasn’t swinging unbelievably but I kept it under control and kept the ball in play all the time which is difficult to do here.
“I managed to guess some of the winds here right and that is very, very difficult. When you can do that here, it’s nice to be able to shoot a score like this,” he said after an effort that saw him open up a four-shot lead.
On the other hand, the biggest name in the field, the highest-ranked player — Rory McIlroy — was anything but special on day one.
Things started well enough for McIlroy, he was three-under par through 13 holes. At the par five 14th, his drive sailed right, into trees and bushes. McIlroy was on his knees searching for the wayward shot but eventually went back to the tee and would make bogey on a hole where most of the field made birdies. He really shot himself in the foot at the par four 17th where he drew a bad lie off his drive, put his second in a greenside bunker then took four shots to get down from there. The double-bogey left him two-over coming home and even par for the day, tied for 21st.
On Friday, Sergio was a different player. All he could manage was a one-under par 71 thanks to a sloppy three-putt bogey at the closing hole. He’s 9-under and just a shot in front of Louis Oosthuizen going into the weekend.
As for Rory, he remained totally mediocre. A 71 left him one-under through 36 and tied for 19th.