Golf: Garcia back on course at Augusta National

Sergio Garcia is not a great fan of Augusta National Golf Club, but he certainly looked at home on the course on Thursday, taking the joint lead in the first round of the Masters.

The Spaniard, once the boy wonder of world golf and now labelled as the best current player not to have won a major, carded a bogey-free 66, his equal-best Masters round since he made his debut in 1999.

That put him level with Australian Marc Leishman atop the leaderboard and raised the prospect that an elusive win in one of the four major tournaments might be just around the corner.

But it was only a year ago, after a poor third round of 75, that a frustrated Garcia raised eyebrows by firing off barbed comments about Augusta National and calling into doubt his own ability to ever win a major.

Asked to reflect back on that after his round, Garcia said he had spoken in the frustration of the moment, although he admitted he still had reservations about the famed Georgia layout.

"I mean, it's obviously not my favorite, my most favorite place, but you know, we try to enjoy it as much as we can each time we come here," he said.

"Sometimes it comes out better than others, but today it was one of those good days. And you know, let's enjoy it while it lasts."

Garcia was especially pleased over getting to five-under through 10 holes which feature some of the toughest on the card at Augusta National.

"What I'm going to try to take into my pillow tonight, it's the first 10 holes. I think it's without a doubt the best 10 holes I've played at the Masters," he said.

"Even though scoring-wise maybe it wasn't, but the way I hit the ball and the amount of birdie chances that I gave myself, it was."

Still, the 33-year--old Garcia insisted that he was not getting carried away with himself after just the one standout round.

He said he was a very different player and person nowadays compared to the bouncing, bubbly teenager that challenged Tiger Woods so gamely back in 1999 at the PGA Championship.

It was all about learning how best to accept and deal with the inevitable highs and lows that follow the professional golfer throughout his career.

"We go through times, but not only myself, everybody, even Tiger has gone through that stretch where he was struggling. Obviously he wasn't feeling as comfortable and he wasn't as confident," he said.

"And Rory just kind of went through it a little bit too. It looks like he's starting to play a little bit better.

"We all go through those moments. The beauty and the bad thing about this game is that, that it can have such highs and such lows, because it's a lot more mental than some of the other games. So you know, the most important thing is to make sure that you get through."

Whether Garcia gets through this time remains to be seen, but he has surely learned once again that Augusta National is a course he can win on.