Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Sergio Garcia put together his third straight impressive round at The Players Championship. The first two gave him a runner-up finish last year. The 6-under 66 on Thursday was only a strong start.
Garcia birdied all the par 5s and picked up a bonus birdie with a 50-foot putt on the 14th hole to build a two-shot lead on the frightening Stadium Course. It was a good step toward ending an 0-for-53 drought on the PGA Tour, the longest of his career.
Kenny Perry and Paul Goydos each had a 68 in the mild, morning breeze on a perfectly conditioned golf course. Sawgrass turned tricky, if not downright difficult, in the afternoon, and Ernie Els was among those who paid dearly.
Els was at 2 under until his wedge came up 20 feet short of the island green on the 17th, and he barely kept his third shot on land. He wound up with a triple bogey, and a 12-foot birdie on the final hole for a 72 didn't improve his spirits much.
Phil Mickelson, trying to become the first player in the history of this tournament to successfully defend his title, was flirting with the leaders until a sloppy middle to his round put him at 70.