Sparkling Sergio Garcia hoping history repeats at Sawgrass

The Spaniard is bidding to become the latest wire-to-wire winner of THE PLAYERS Championship after taking the first-round lead with a stunning 65.

Sergio Garcia was the headline-maker on day one of the prestigious PLAYERS Championship in Florida.

The Spaniard loves TPC Sawgrass. He won there in 2008, was runner-up in both 2007 and 2015 and now tops the leaderboard again after a 7-under-par 65 on Thursday.

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These guys are good but with the course playing firm and fast, such a score seemed beyond any reasonable expectation. Sergio had other ideas.

An eagle-3 at his seventh hole of the day, the par-5 16th, helped him move to 3-under with three to play.

And then came the fireworks. A birdie at 7, another par breaker at 8 and a second eagle of the day at the par-5 9th. Sergio iced the cake, put a cherry on top and then sent a message to the field with a double exclamation mark.

It's nice to be in front but first-round leaders rarely win, right?

Well, it's a different story at TPC Sawgrass. In fact, going to wire-to-wire has been something of a theme in the last six years.

Martin Kaymer started the trend in 2014. A 63 gave him a two-shot advantage after round one one and he topped the leaderboard at the close of each day (sharing it after round three) before closing out a narrow one-shot win.

Two years later, Jason Day also opened with 63 and rode it to the finish to secure a four-shot success.

And after sharing the first-round lead with a 66 in 2018, Webb Simpson accelerated away with laps of 63 and 68 to cruise seven clear on Saturday before completing a four-shot win.

Now Sergio will look to do the same from his position of power. He's just 5/1 with Paddy Power to do so.

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Garcia actually has fairly recent experience of a wire-to-wire win himself. That came in the 2017 Dubai Desert Classic and, just like day one at Sawgrass, he opened that week with a 65.

It's hard to play catch-up at TPC Sawgrass. And with Sergio in this mood, the field may find it very difficult to reel him in.

After his 65, the 2017 Masters winner talked about his love of Sawgrass, the conditions on day one and offering encouragement to playing partner Rory McIlroy, who slumped to a 79.

On why he likes the course so much

"I don't know, I just love it. I've always said it, Valderrama and this course are some of my top favourite ones and for some reason they just, it just kind of fits my eye. I see what I want to do pretty much every hole and then it's a matter of doing it, but definitely I feel more comfortable and I've done well. So all those things help."

On the similarities between TPC Sawgrass and Valderrama

"A little bit, yeah, they're different courses but you have to drive the ball well, fairways are not massive, greens are not very big, so you have to be accurate with your irons. It feels like if you are hitting greens you are having birdie chances, you're not like struggling from 50, 60, 70 feet like some of the other courses we play where the greens are just huge. So that obviously kind of suits the way I like to play and today I was able to do that, hit some good iron shots, drove the ball nicely, hit some good iron shots and give myself a lot of those 15, 12 to 20-footers for eagles and birdies and I was able to roll three or four of them and that obviously helps."

On his birdie-eagle finish

"Well 8 was playing tough, I thought. It was about 226 to the hole, into the wind, so I hit a really good solid cut 3-iron as close as probably you can hit it to that flag on the right. So probably about I would say 18 feet, 17, 18 feet, just left of the hole. Got a nice read off of Webb (Simpson) who was just outside of me and I was able to roll it in. So that was really nice. That was a bit of a bonus."

"And then 9 I hit a nice cut drive off the tee, left myself a really nice angle with a 5-wood from I think like 264 I think it was, wind was right-to-left a little bit down and I was able to hit a beautiful hold up 5-wood just right of the hole. Landed in a perfect spot to be able to hold the green, which is never easy there, and left myself an, actually a really nice uphill putt, pretty much straight, maybe left edge. And I was fortunate enough to roll it in."

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On whether the course was harder for a Thursday than usual

"The rough is a little bit thicker than it's been lately here, obviously just [the tournament] going back to March. The greens are probably as quick as I've seen them for a few years. Because the greens were soft it was like it was tough to control your spin. You spin it a little bit with the speed of the greens and a little bit of slope, the balls were just rolling off the greens and you were hitting good shots and they weren't holding so it was a little bit tricky, even though I expected the greens to be a little bit firmer. Obviously they got a tiny bit firmer as the day went on, but it was tricky to control the spin because of the combination of being soft and very fast. So it kind of caught us a couple of times here and there, but I was able to manage it nicely towards the end."

On Rory's outward 43 and 7-over 79

"I mean I love Rory, he's an amazing player, I've been able to play a lot with him, not only in normal tournaments but in Ryder Cups and we had a good partnership. This course, you don't have to be that far off to get penalised a lot. So it happens. Unfortunately, he didn't hit a good tee shot on the 1st, on the 10th hole, made double, which is never the kind of start you want. And then just a couple, just a little bit off and just missed a couple of birdies, feels like you're not making any ground, you try to force things a little bit and obviously unfortunately for him it bit him a little bit. But I told him when we finished, just go out there tomorrow and get it and you never know, I shot 7-under so he can shoot 7-under tomorrow and hopefully make the cut. So we'll see. He's able to do it."

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