Richard Bland splashes out and buys himself a birdie
Englishman Bland, who is searching for his first European Tour title, made a brilliant birdie from the water at the 11th before holing his approach shot from the 13th fairway for an eagle to jump to the top of the pile.
And after carding five birdies and two bogeys in his first 14 holes, Masters champion Garcia picked up further shots at the 15th and 17th to join Bland at the summit on 13 under par.
Swede Joakim Lagergren was a single shot behind the co-leaders in third, with Thomas Detry and Andres Romero another two strokes back on 10 under.
Bland, who began the day a single shot behind halfway leaders Joel Stalter and Lagergren, bounced back from a bogey at the second with three straight gains from the fourth to reach the turn in 34.
And after hitting his third shot out of shallow water at the 11th, the 44-year-old rolled in his 20-foot birdie putt to get to 11 under.
Bland, playing in his 410th European Tour event, then made an eagle at the 13th before safely parring his final five holes to sign for a 67.
“I hit some really good shots out there and I hit a couple of scrappy ones coming in but my short game saved me,” Bland said.
“Got my feet wet and holed a second shot into 13. So yeah, kind of ran pretty much into everything.”
Garcia said: “It’s nice but it doesn’t mean that it’s finished. Still we have a long day tomorrow. We’ve got to go out there, play well again and see if we can pull it off.”
Meanwhile, on the US PGA Tour, Jordan Spieth remains out in front at the halfway stage of the Travelers Championship but Rory McIlroy tumbled down the leaderboard after a three-over 73 at TPC River Highlands in Connecticut.
First-round leader Spieth followed up his opening-day 63 with a less impressive 69, thanks in part to a double bogey on the 13th hole, yet he sits one stroke ahead of Troy Merritt and Patrick Reed.
Northern Irish world No.3 McIlroy, who missed the cut at the US Open last week, found four bogeys over the back nine to fall into a share of 69th place, just one shot above the projected cut line. McIlroy managed to make par at one point after hitting a tee shot into a water hazard, and he later said: “I would have taken a par after the tee shot. Could have made birdie, but didn’t.”
Spieth recovered from his early double bogey with three birdies across his next eight holes and afterwards confessed it was his putting that saved his round.
After taking only 29 putts to finish on Friday, the Texan said: “I wouldn’t say I played my B-game. I think I’ve been up there playing pretty solid golf. It’s just, hitting more greens. The ones I missed, I didn’t really need to miss. I was trying to do too much. That’s kind of what gets me in trouble on a course like this.”
Johnson Wagner and Brett Stegmaier were a stroke behind Spieth after day one but both Americans followed 64s with 72s to slip out of strong positions.
That left Merritt and Reed as the closest title challengers on seven under while Patrick Rodgers was one of the day’s biggest movers, his five-under 65 boosting him to within three strokes of the lead.
Ireland’s Padraig Harrington is among those tied for eighth with Rodgers after a one-under 69 while Paul Casey carded another 68 to retain an outside chance of climbing the ladder in Cromwell.
Anirban Lahiri, meanwhile, revealed how a recent stint at a meditation centre helped him shoot 63 to fly 108 places up the leaderboard.
The Indian said: “You go to the centre for 10 days, you switch your phones off. There is no TV, you’re not allowed to read.
“You’re meditating. You’re not allowed to talk. So there is like complete silence for nine and a half days or so, and you’re meditating for 10 to 12 hours a day.
“I find it very healing for me, and a lot of people who have gone there benefited from it. It’s not something I do specifically for my golf, but it’s something that’s helped me.”