April 4 (Reuters) - Sergio Garcia served up another reminder that he is back in top form heading to the Masters when he took a big second round lead at the $6.4 million Houston Open on Friday.
The Spaniard was in control of all facets of his game as he reeled off an eagle and five birdies for a seven-under-par 65 in breezy morning conditions at the Golf Club of Houston.
He recorded a 12-under 132 halfway total, four strokes ahead of Australian Matt Jones and Americans Cameron Tringale and Shawn Stefani with half the field back in the clubhouse.
“I was able for most part of the day to drive the ball fairly well and my iron play was quite good and short game worked nicely again, so I‘m very happy with that,” Garcia, 34, told Golf Channel after sinking a six-footer to save par at his final hole.
”It was the kind of day you needed (to be in control) because there were a lot of tight tee shots and tough second shots into the greens.
“I was a little fortunate a couple of holes, was able to make a couple of really nice pars and kept my round going.”
Nearly 15 years have passed since a teenage Garcia rose to fame in an enthralling battle with Tiger Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah outside Chicago.
Garcia finished runner-up to Woods there and is still seeking that elusive breakthrough major victory.
Mediocre putting and some personal issues hampered his results for several years, but he has regained top form with a vengeance the past seven months, finishing inside the top 20 in his past 12 starts worldwide, including two victories.
Nobody is playing better heading to the Masters next week, but Garcia is not about to make any bold predictions.
“Every week is different but I’ve just got to try to feel the same way, believe in my ability the same way and hope that things happen,” he said.
At least Garcia is assured of playing in the Masters. Jones is not exempt, and can only qualify by winning on Sunday.
Jones recalled that a putt he missed at the BMW Championship last September cost him an invitation to Augusta.
Had that six-footer dropped, he would have made it the Tour Championship the following week, and therefore have punched his ticket to the Masters.
But he is not about to complain after playing himself into contention this week with consecutive rounds of 68. (Reporting By Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina,; Editing by Gene Cherry)