With growing confidence in his balky putting stroke and superb ball-striking that has become his hallmark, Garcia birdied all the par fives and picked up a bonus birdie with a 50-foot putt on the 14th hole to build a two-shot lead on the Stadium Course at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
It was a good step toward ending an 0-for-53 drought on the PGA Tour, the longest of his career.
"At the end of the day, the only thing I can do is keep working on it, keep giving myself chances, and it's going to happen," Garcia said. "I feel like I'm getting closer and closer."
Kenny Perry and Paul Goydos each had a 68 in the mild, morning breeze. Sawgrass turned tricky in the afternoon, and Ernie Els was among those who paid dearly, going from two under before the 17th hole to a 70.
Of the 34 players who broke par in the opening round, only eight played in the afternoon. Todd Hamilton was the best among late starters with a 69, and Wachovia winner Anthony Kim rallied for a 70.
Phil Mickelson, trying to become the first player in the history of this tournament to repeat his title, finished at 70.
Scotland's Mhairi McKay shot a course-record-tying 63 in the opening round of the Michelob Ultra Open at Williamsburg, Va.
Annika Sorenstam and Sun Young Yoo were one stroke back, and Lorena Ochoa and Diana D'Alessio were at 65.
Playing for the first time since February, Michelle Wie had only one birdie while finishing at four-over 75.
John Daly shot a five-under 67 in the Italian Open, leaving him three strokes behind first-round leaders Ross McGowan and Marco Ruiz in Milan.