HOYLAKE, England (AP) — The last time Sergio Garcia played the British Open at Royal Liverpool in 2006, he was one stroke off the lead after three rounds and played in the final group with Tiger Woods.
Woods, wearing his traditional Sunday red shirt, shot 65 to win by two strokes. Garcia, dressed from head to toe in yellow, shot a 73 and finished tied for fifth, seven strokes behind.
It was another British Open disappointment for the Spaniard: Five times he's gone into the final round of the Open within three shots or better of the lead, including his three-shot lead at Carnoustie in 2007.
On Thursday, Garcia opened with a 4-under 68, two strokes behind first-round leader Rory McIlroy, and still in search of that elusive first win in a major.
"It would be nice to put myself in a position to have a solid chance on Sunday, like I did a couple of times, and like I did in 2006," Garcia said. "But, still, it's only the first day. So we're going to go a little step by step and hopefully keep shooting good scores."
Garcia had five birdies and one bogey, on the par-5 10th. But he followed up the 6 with a chip-in birdie on No. 11.
"It was perfect timing, it was one of those things that it was great to be able to do it right after a bogey on a par-5, which always stings a little bit," Garcia said.
"I hit a great tee shot, then then just pulled it with my 9-iron left of the green ... let it run down the hill. Fortunately, it went straight in the middle and hit the pin and went in."
Garcia said he's in a good place mentally, despite what the Open has dished out to him in the past.
"Even in the tough years in this championship, it's different to me," Garcia said. "I love it so much. After the Ryder Cup it's my favorite tournament to play. You always come with a different frame of mind here, even if you're struggling a little bit. It almost kind of feels like a Ryder Cup, when people start shouting, "Come on, lads'!"
Whether the fans are still offering encouragement to him on Sunday is still a big question mark, but Garcia is happy after Thursday's effort.
"Every time you start a major championship and an Open with a 4 under, you've got to be pleased with it," he said.