Woodstock, Ga. Sergio Garcia prefers playing the tough courses, where par is a good score and he doesn't have to worry about being left behind whenever he misses a putt.
He felt right at home Thursday in the American Express Championship, where his 5-under 65 was one of only 12 scores under par and gave him a one-stroke lead over Rocco Mediate and Tim Herron.
Defending champion Tiger Woods made two long birdie putts and five good par saves and was another stroke back at 67.
"I've always felt much better on difficult courses because I don't feel like it's so much of a putting competition," Garcia said. "I'm a bit more relaxed on the course. I know I don't have to go for every pin, only the ones I feel comfortable with."
It's a nice change from last week. Garcia finished at even par in the Texas Open, which left him in 79th place and 26 shots behind Tommy Armour III, who set the PGA Tour's 72-hole record at 254.
Ernie Els had a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 5 and was still 8 feet away after three whacks at it. He finally tapped in for a four-putt double bogey. Ignacio Garrido of Spain was at 4-under and had 15 feet to save par on the last, but three-putted for double bogey.
Garcia hit the ball so well that he was putting for birdie on every hole but the 14th, and they weren't very far from the cup.
His longest birdie putt was a 15-footer on No. 2, and he rarely left himself anything but a tap-in for par whenever he missed.
Woods was using a new Nike driver -- his third driver of the year, and the largest clubhead he has ever used in competition. He averaged 312 yards off the tee, and while he hit only six fairways, he was only in the deep grass four