Spaniard Sergio Garcia took advantage of an early tee-off time to seize a two-stroke lead after the opening round of the the Players Championship yesterday in Florida.

Seeking his first PGA Tour title in almost three years, Garcia fired a sparkling six-under-par 66 at the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass to take control of the event widely regarded as the unofficial fifth major.

The 28-year-old piled up seven birdies, four of them in six holes, and a lone bogey in breezy morning conditions to finish two ahead of Americans Kenny Perry and Paul Goydos.

Two-time champion Steve Elkington of Australia opened with a 69 to lie three off the pace, level with Britain’s Ian Poulter, Swede Niclas Fasth and Americans Heath Slocum and Todd Hamilton.

Garcia, whose last PGA Tour win came at the 2005 Booz Allen Classic, said he had benefited from teeing off in the calm of the morning.

“I wouldn’t say it was easy, but it was definitely not as tough,” he added.

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