Orlando Sentinel
PGA Tour

Garcia jumps ahead by 1 at Houston Open

Humble, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Sergio Garcia fired a 7-under 65 on Friday to vault into the lead of the Houston Open.

Garcia, who won the European Tour's Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in January, finished 36 holes at 12-under-par 132.

"I do feel like I'm playing nicely," said Garcia. "I feel comfortable with myself in and outside the golf course. But I definitely don't feel like I'm hitting the ball the best I've hit it. I feel like I'm still struggling a little bit with my draw sometimes, to have enough confidence to hit it once in awhile."

Matt Kuchar bogeyed his final hole on the Tournament Course at Golf Club of Houston to close out a 5-under 67 and finish a shot off the pace at 11-under 133.

Three-time winner this season Jimmy Walker (65), Matt Jones (68), Cameron Tringale (68) and Shawn Stefani (69) shared third place at 8-under. Steve Stricker (69) and Ben Curtis (70) are tied for seventh at minus-7.

Both of the first-round co-leaders struggled during Friday's windy conditions, as Bill Haas tripped to a 2-over 74 to fall into a share of 13th place at 5- under and Charley Hoffman carded a 4-over 76 to fall into a group of players tied for 27th at 3-under 141.

Garcia went out with one of the earlier groups of the day and raced to the top of the leaderboard with his impressive round.

The Spaniard followed a pair of opening pars with a 12-foot birdie at the 12th before sticking his second shot at the par-5 13th to five feet and converting his eagle effort to jump to 8-under.

He stayed hot with a 30-foot birdie putt at the 14th and after parring his next six holes, Garcia capped three straight gains from the third with back- to-back putts from 12 feet to vault into the lead at 12-under.

He parred his final four holes to finish there.

"When I looked at today, I thought if I'm able to shoot 3-, 4-under, I'll be happy," Garcia said. "To be able to shoot 7-under in those conditions was really, really nice."

Kuchar was the lone player in the afternoon to threaten Garcia and he started to make his move with a birdie at the fourth. He later converted a 41-foot birdie putt at the seventh to make the turn at 8-under.

Kuchar opened his back nine with birdies at the 10th and 12th to pull within two of the lead.

He pulled even with Garcia with a pair of gains at the 15th and 17th, the latter coming from 29 feet, but he failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker at the last and 2-putted for bogey to fall a shot behind entering the weekend.

NOTES: Garcia hit 13 of 14 possible fairways on Friday ... Garcia is seeking his first win on the PGA Tour since the 2012 Wyndham Championship ... Kuchar's last victory came at the 2013 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship ... The cut line fell at even-par 144, with 77 players advancing to the weekend. Among those to miss the cut was defending champion D.A. Points, Jordan Spieth and Ian Poulter ... Seung-Yul Noh withdrew during the second round with a wrist injury and Nicolas Colsaerts withdrew with a neck injury.

04/04 20:58:50 ET