PACIFIC PALISADES, California, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Sergio Garcia gave himself a timely boost for next week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona with a scintillating finish to the Northern Trust Open on Sunday.
A distant nine strokes off the pace going into the final round at Riviera Country Club, the Spaniard rocketed up the leaderboard with a best-of-the-week, seven-under-par 64 that included two eagles.
"It is good momentum for me," Garcia told reporters after also recording five birdies and two bogeys on a cool but sunny afternoon to post a five-under total of 279.
"I'm hoping that I can take it into next week, have a couple nice rounds early on and kind of get going as the tournament goes on."
Having made the second-round cut at Riviera right on the number, Garcia left himself with too much ground to make up in his bid for an eighth victory on the PGA Tour, and his first since the 2008 Players Championship.
"Everything had to be absolutely perfect for me," he said of his unlikely prospect of victory heading into the final round. "I obviously couldn't make any bogeys.
"Unfortunately the bogey on four was a momentum stopper, but then I made a good par on the next and a great birdie on six. It's such a difficult golf course."
The former world number two was delighted, though, with his putting form on Riviera's notoriously difficult greens with their subtle contours and tricky poa annua grass.
"Today was nice," the 32-year-old Spaniard said after totaling only 24 putts. "I haven't putted badly here. These greens are very, very tricky, and in the afternoon they get bumpy.
"I hit a lot of good putts, a couple here and there that I would love to have hit better, but I've been putting nicely for a while now, and it feels good."
Garcia, who sank a nine-footer to eagle the par-five 11th and holed out with a four-iron from 207 yards to eagle the daunting par-four 15th, conceded he had paid the penalty for his second-round 76.
"Taking away the second round, I didn't play that badly," he said. "The first round was nice, yesterday I played good, although I messed up a couple of holes and today I obviously played nicely."
The Accenture Match Play Championship, the first of the year's four elite World Golf Championships events, starts on Wednesday at Dove Mountain in Marana, Arizona.