The young Spaniard leads by a shot over Sweden's Pierre Fulke, whose round of 65 Thursday included just one bogey. Two shots back at 7-under are four other players, one of which is none other than tournament host Norman.
Garcia's 64 proved just one shot shy of the course record at The Lakes Golf Club, yet for him, it served as a personal best.
'It is my lowest round in a tournament,' the 21-year-old stated. 'I missed only one fairway and three greens. It was quite a comfortable 9-under. I didn't make a birdie at the par-5 14th, but other than that it was brilliant.'
Brilliant indeed, especially considering that Garcia has not won since his first year as a professional in 1999, when he took two titles on the European Tour at the Murphy's Irish Open and the Linde German Masters.
Despite the comments that the unorthodox loop in his backswing would not hold up over the long run, the youngster has persevered since that time, recording a tie for fifth at last season's Volvo PGA Championship.
And this year on the tour, he has pocketed a tie for 19th in the Johnnie Walker Classic.
Now he seems to be in good position to make a run at his third career professional victory.
One player in which Garcia will have to hold off over the next three days, however, is Norman. Playing in the event which bears his name, the 45-year-old Australian legend continues his solid play, coming off a tie for 16th at last week's Heineken Classic.
On Thursday, the winner of 74 professional events worldwide birdied the last three holes of the day. And he thinks he can keep it up.
'I don't think it makes any difference on a course where youth and strength are not really an advantage,' he said. 'I still believe I can do it. If I did not think I could do it, then I wouldn't play.'
Norman should know a thing or two about this course. He won here in '98 and certainly does not discount his chances this week.
'Ray Floyd and Hale Irwin both won in their mid-40s,' he said. 'It depends on how strong your mind and body are.'
Norman has long been known for the physical strength of his game. While critics have traditionally been harsh on his strength of mind, a victory this week in his homeland would come at a perfect time for the Shark.
He turns 46 on Saturday, and would love to prove that he is not quite done with the game just yet.
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