AUGUSTA, Ga. — Sergio Garcia is tied for the lead after the first round of the Masters one year removed from saying that he can't win a major golf tournament.
"I'm not good enough. I don't have the thing I need to have," Garcia said, through a Spanish translator, after shooting a third-round 75 that took him out of contention in 2012. "In 13 years, I've come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place."
As of now he's in first place, tied at 6-under-par 66 with Australian Marc Leishman and one shot ahead of Dustin Johnson.
Garcia had a different tone Thursday following a round that included six birdies and no bogeys. But he still doesn't have the love for Augusta National that most on the course express as often as asked.
"It's not my favorite place, but you know, we try to enjoy it as much as we can each time we come here," Garcia said. "Sometimes it comes out better than others, but today was one of those good days.
"And let's enjoy it while it lasts."
Garcia, a onetime wunderkind who played in his first major at the age of 16, finished runner-up to Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship in 1999 and to Padraig Harrington in the 2007 British Open and ascended to No. 2 in the world golf rankings. He is playing in the Masters for the 15th time. He's never shot two sub-70 rounds in the same Masters.
His statement that he can't win a major is one he did not shy away from.
"Those were my words," said Garcia, who shot a personal-Masters-best Thursday. "We go through moments, tough moments and frustrating moments, and I know that was one of them.
"If my best is not that good, then I'll struggle."
Garcia shot 5 under through the first 10 holes, a stretch he called the best of his career here.
"What I'm going to try to take to my pillow tonight is the first 10 holes," he said. "The way I hit the ball, and the amount of birdie chances I gave myself -- it meant a lot."
Leishman held the lead alone for about three hours as thick clouds kept the sun covered most of the day.
Leishman, who earned his way into the Masters by winning the Traveler's Championship last summer, began his day with a bogey. A birdie on No. 3 settled his nerves, and he went on to birdie six more holes.
He had the hottest stretch of anybody in the field by reeling off four straight birdies beginning on No. 13.
"It was awesome getting on that sort of run," said Leishman, who shot 7 over and missed the Masters cut in 2010. "I had about a 6-footer on 13, about a 2-footer on 14, a 2-footer on 15 and then holed that bomb on 16 from, I don't know how far, but it was in a different zip code."
Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy are within sight of the leaders with 54 holes yet to be played. Woods is tied for 13th at 70, Mickelson shares 23rd at 71 and McIlroy is tied for 33rd at 72. Defending champion Bubba Watson shot 3 over and is tied for 64th and in danger of missing the cut.
Garcia and Johnson wore the same Adidas green-and-black shirts Thursday and likely will look similar through Sunday.
"We are not wearing the same outfit because we want to," Johnson joked. "They script our clothing. We are wearing the same outfit because they told us to."
Like Garcia, Johnson played his best round at Augusta on Thursday and shot in the 60s for the second time in 13 rounds here. It started with a chip-in on No. 1 and continued with another birdie on the second hole, and with another chip-in birdie on No. 9, he turned at 3 under. An eagle on 13 and a birdie on 15 dropped him to 6 under, but a bogey on No. 17 kept him out of the first-round lead.
"I've played OK here in the past, just not great," said Johnson, who did not qualify last year. "Coming back this year and getting a good round is really good."
Johnson is one stroke ahead of six players who are tied for fourth at 4 under: David Lynn, Rickie Fowler, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Tervor Immelman, Fred Couples and Matt Kuchar.
Eight of the top 11 scores came from players who started their round after 10:30 a.m., including Kuchar in the final group.
"Great start to the week," Kuchar said. "I was at home watching some of the telecast and I finally had to shut it off when all I heard was how the people in the morning had the better tee time and how they were really going to be able to take advantage. We ended up getting some pretty nice conditions, which helped me."
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...