AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The Masters was rife with low scores and heady possibilities Thursday, with each circle spreading wide enough to include even Sergio Garcia, the guy whose score here last year had prompted him to proclaim, "I'm not good enough for the majors."
He was plenty good Thursday, with a hot start and a calm finish that resulted in a 6-under par 66 and a tie for first place after the first round. Garcia, 33, who is best known for his frustration in major championships, was far more positive than he was in speaking to the Spanish media in tones of surrender last year. Then again, he wasn't kicking up his heels, as he did when he was a 19-year-old prodigy.
"Sometimes I do feel like there is such a thing as being too hyper about something. You've still got to keep calm," he said after having matched the score shot earlier on a good scoring day by Australian Marc Leishman, winner of the 2012 Travelers Championship in Hartford.
Calm is a long way from despair, which is where Garcia sat after a third-round 75 knocked him out of contention last year. He was quoted as saying, "I don't have the capacity to win a major . . . It's the reality. I'm not good enough and now I know it."
Asked to reflect on that Thursday, he said, "We go through moments, tough moments and frustrated moments and I know it was one of them. Maybe I didn't say it the right way. What I felt was I definitely kind of shot myself out of the tournament. So I wasn't wrong there. But every time I tee it off, I try to play as well as I can, hope that my best that week is really, really good. If my best is not that good then, you know, I'll struggle a little bit. Today my best was pretty good."
He made the turn at 4 under, accurately hitting his mid- and long irons. "So it wasn't that easy," he said. Garcia birdied the tough par-4 10th to go 5 under -- probably the best stretch in his 15 trips to Augusta. "What I'm going to try to take into my pillow tonight, it's the first 10 holes," he said.
There were plenty of red numbers on a muggy, overcast day on which the greens were fairly soft and not terribly fast. Dustin Johnson shot 5-under- par 67 and a bunch of players shot 68. That group included Fred Couples, 53, whose surge into contention at the Masters is a rite of spring, like the blooming of azaleas.
Anything can happen, such as a journeyman sinking a birdie putt on 16 that was so long, the guy who made it said it appeared to start and end "in another zip code." That would be Leishman, who burst out of the pack on Sunday at Hartford with a 62, and waited two hours, 20 minutes as the 19 golfers who had been ahead of him faltered.
"To be honest, I thought I'd finish second or third and go home," he said.
Many golfers are in position to aim higher than second or third this week, even the likable Spaniard who admitted Augusta National is not his favorite place. "We try to enjoy it as much as we can each time we come here," Garcia said. "Sometimes it comes out better than others."