Garcia moves to top of Houston Open leaderboard

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HUMBLE, Texas (AP) - Sergio Garcia has yet to finish lower than 16th in a PGA Tour event this season.

The Spaniard appears well on his way to keeping that streak intact this week after posting a 7-under par 65 and matching the course 36-hole record of 12 under overall after the second round of the Houston Open on Friday.

As well as Garcia played in taking a one-shot lead over Matt Kuchar, the focus afterward was a mix of this week - with a heavy dose of attention turned toward next week’s Masters.

Garcia has eight PGA Tour wins in his career, but the 34-year-old world No. 8- once thought to be Tiger Woods’ challenger for the top spot in the world - is still in search of his first major championship.

He’d like nothing more than end that quest next week, while taking full advantage of his prep time at the Golf Club of Houston’s Augusta National-like conditions for the rest of this weekend.

“I mean, obviously I feel good, but every week is different,” Garcia said. “First of all, we got to finish this week, and hopefully next week I’ll be feeling good (and) not too many things will be bothering me health-wise, and then just feel good on the course, hopefully play well and things happen.”

Garcia, opening on the back nine, climbed the leaderboard with a birdie-eagle-birdie stretch on his front nine. His eagle on the par-5 13th came after sticking his 282-yard second shot to 5 feet, giving him a 4-shot lead following his morning round.

Kuchar, who opened with a 6-under 66 on Thursday, briefly tied Garcia at 12 under late in his afternoon round before closing with a bogey from the fairway bunker on the 18th.

The two will be paired with Matt Jones on Saturday after tournament officials decided to send threesomes off both tees early in the morning in an attempt to beat expected rain in the afternoon.

“If we get some rain and it doesn’t blow too hard, of course the course will soften up and the scores will go even lower,” Kuchar said. “No telling … It could be really tough.”

The weather was the clearest it’s been all week on Friday, with the sun shining brightly and the wind gusting throughout the day at the 7,441-yard Golf Club of Houston.

The windy conditions limited first-round co-leader Bill Haas to a 2-over 74. Charley Hoffman, the other first-round leader, fell to 3 under par overall after a 4-over 76.

While the early leaders struggled, Phil Mickelson shot a 2-under 70 and is 6 under overall, six shots back of Garcia in ninth.

After a bogey-free opening round on Thursday, Mickelson - still recovering from last week’s muscle pull that forced his withdrawal from the Texas Open - overcame a pair of bogeys on Friday with four birdies.

The five-time major winner, who won the Houston Open in 2011, had back-to-back birdies to reach 6 under where he is one of 11 golfers within six shots of Garcia.

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