Patient Garcia fears early lead could be another false dawn

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The Independent Online

In August Sergio Garcia shared the lead on the first day of the NEC World Invitational with a round of 64. The next day he scored a 76. After taking a one-stroke lead with a five-under round of 65 on the first day of the AmEx World Championship here yesterday the 23-year-old Spaniard was not getting carried away.

A season with only two top-10 finishes has been caused by first deciding to improve his swing and then having to recover his putting stroke. "You have to be patient," Garcia said. "I'm not going to get ahead of myself and say everything is sweet now and I'm ready to win every week. But I definitely played some really good golf out there." Garcia and his fellow leaders, including Tiger Woods on 67, were out late in the day and play was switched to threeballs after a delay in the morning due to frost. There was still a chill in the air as the early starters set out on the new Crabapple course at the Capital City Club although the sun was again out.

For the second day running, however, the gallery was not exactly throbbing and though that might change for the finale tomorrow it was very different from the huge crowds who turned out to watch the best players in the world at Mount Juliet last year and no doubt will again when the tournament returns to Ireland next year.

"It's a bigger event outside the States," said Padraig Harrington. "It should move around the world. It helps to have an atmosphere." On a local level, the citizens of Atlanta currently have bigger interests than golf, with their college football team top of the list - today's third round will end early so television can switch to the schoolboys. Then there has been the baseball play-offs, although the games in Atlanta only sold out because the Braves were playing the success-starved but fanatically supported Chicago Cubs.

But there remains the conceit in American golf, which is awash with dollars, that if it happens here it is big but if it is overseas it does not rate. All four of the World Golf Championships are in the States this year, which is fine with Davis Love. "The sponsors want to go where they're going to get the most bang for their buck," Love said. "We want to see them move round the world once in a while but we certainly don't want two in the US and two overseas."

Love was one of the six Americans who passed on an invitation to the HSBC World Match Play at Wentworth. "It used to be that you chased extra money overseas but now our tour is getting stronger and the money is getting bigger and you don't have to," Love said. "I would much rather drive to Greensboro in my motor home than fly overseas." But Love will not be making the short journey from his home in Georgia to Kiawah Island for the World Cup, another event suffering from top-name withdrawals, and do not even get him started on the Presidents Cup.

The match between the States and the Internationals - non-Europeans from around the world - will be played in South Africa next month. The only other time it has left the States, the Americans, who have always won on home soil, were thrashed in Melbourne.

"The first few Presidents Cups in Washington were a lot of fun but then we had to start taking it on the road and it wasn't as much fun," Love said. "Almost all the International players play in the United States so why don't we play it here and make it easier for everybody."

Love began double-bogey, bogey yesterday to fall back to seven over par, but Brad Faxon produced the first eagle of the tournament at the short par-four fifth in a run of four holes where he also had three birdies.

Amex World Championship: (Atlanta, Georgia) Leading first-round scores (US unless stated): 65 S Garcia (Sp). 66 T Herron, R Mediate. 67 K J Choi (S Kor), T Woods. 68 I Garrido (Spa), N Fasth (Swe). 69 L Roberts, M Weir (Can), J Randhawa (Ind), P O'Malley (Aus), D Clarke (GB. 70 P Price (GB), L Mattiace, K Perry, A Cejka (Ger), T Izawa (Japan), T Immelman (SA), V Singh (Fiji), S Kjeldsen (Den), J Furyk, J Kelly, A Scott (Aus). 71 B Davis (GB), S Appleby (Aus), S Flesch, E Els (SA), F Couples, N Price (Zim), A Forsyth, P Harrington (Irl). 72 J L Lewis, S Micheel, E Romero (Arg), R Allenby (Aus), L Westwood (GB). 73 P Mickelson, D Toms, I Poulter (GB), R Goosen (SA), F Funk, J Kaye, T Jaidee (Thai), P Casey (GB), B Tway. 74 C Riley, C Montgomerie (GB), T Bjorn (Den), D Love III, J Haas, D Howell (GB), K Triplett, C Campbell. 75 S Hoch, B Faxon, F Jacobson (Swe), S Verplank, J Rose (GB), P Lonard (Aus). 76 C DiMarco, A Atwal (Ind), R Beem, B Curtis, C Howell, H Otto (SA), M Foster (GB), C Parry (Aus).