PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Sergio Garcia is not thinking about winning, which is becoming tougher to do with each bogey-free round at the Transitions Championship.
Garrett Willis and Chris Couch were tied for the lead after Friday’s second round at Innisbrook ended. Willis had a 4-under 67 in the still of the morning to put his name atop the leaderboard for the second straight year – this time on a Friday, not a Thursday. Couch had a 64 in the afternoon as the breeze began to stir, making a par from the trees on the 18th to tie for the lead.
Even so, it was tough to ignore the name one stroke behind them.
Garcia is among the most talented players in golf, although his enthusiasm waned so much last year that he decided to take a 10-week break from competition. This is his first time playing in America in seven months.
The 31-year-old Spaniard looked disgusted when birdie putts turned away. He produced a fist pump normally saved for a Sunday when he holed a chip for birdie from behind the 13th green.
About the only thing that went wrong in his round of 66 was when he felt something on the back of his cap as he walked off the 14th tee early in his round. Turns out it was a bee, which stung him on his middle finger, although he got the stinger out and all was well.
A par save on the final hole felt even better.
“Just keep trying to do the right things and see what we finish,” he said. “I’m not worried about winning. I just want to keep building confidence into my head, and these rounds obviously help. If we go out there tomorrow and shoot another round, beautiful. If not, that’s fine. I’ve just got to make sure that I keep building up.”
Willis and Couch were at 9-under 133, one shot clear of Garcia and Webb Simpson, who had a 67 in the afternoon. Paul Casey, who led after the first round, had to settle for a 71 and was two shots behind along with Justin Rose (65) and Gary Woodland (68).
Innisbrook is one of the toughest courses in Florida, although it was vulnerable in such ideal weather. It’s not so much the number of players who produced low scores, rather the high scores that were absent.
As a result, the cut of 1-under 141 was the lowest in tournament history. Going into the weekend, only eight shots separate first from worst, a rarity on the PGA Tour.
Brandt Snedeker, in his first tournament since becoming a father, had a 64 to lead a group at 6-under 136 that included 17-year-old Matteo Manassero, two-time PGA Tour winner Mark Wilson and Peter Hanson, who had a peculiar day with the putter.
Another shot back was a group that included a trio of U.S. Open champions – Geoff Ogilvy, Lucas Glover and defending champion Jim Furyk – while U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein made 14 pars in his round of 69 and was at 3-under 139.
Uihlein holed out a 40-yard bunker shot on No. 5 for eagle, then holed out from the fairway for eagle on No. 7. He had two bogeys coming in, but easily made the cut in his second PGA Tour start.
Among those missing the cut were three-time major champion Padraig Harrington and John Daly, who failed to make it to the weekend for the fifth time in six tournaments this year.