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Thursday, 21 October 2010
Ricardo Gonzalez  (Getty Images)
Ricardo Gonzalez (Getty Images)

Big-hitting Ricardo Gonzalez and former Open Championship winner Paul Lawrie share the first round lead at the CASTELLÓ MASTERS Costa Azahar.

Both players signed for a seven under par 64 at Club de Campo del Mediterráneo to establish a one shot advantage over England's David Horsey.

Argentina's Gonzalez, looking to mark his 41st birthday on Sunday with a fifth European Tour title, returned to form with a bogey-free round that included two hattricks of birdies.

The former SAS Masters champion is without a top-ten finish since January but birdied the third, fourth, fifth and eighth to turn in 32 before picking up shots on three consecutive holes from the 13th on the way in - the last of which came courtesy of a monster curling birdie putt.

"Today I had one my best rounds this season," said Gonzalez.

"I played good - I hit almost every fairway which makes things much easier, and my putting felt great.

"Today's seven under proves that I can be up there, and hopefully, this will be my week. I was actually aiming for a top ten, as I am struggling to keep my card. This great start not only makes it easier but raises my expectations.

"Putting has been my main problem - I have been very inconsistent this year, so I got myself a new, larger putter. I seem to see the line much better. I decided to give it a try this week, and it's working fine."

The 41 year old Lawrie is without a win since 2002, but picked up seven shots in nine holes from the fifth - including four in a row around the turn - as like Gonzalez he kept a blemish-free card.

At 68th on The Race to Dubai the Scot will be aware that a good finish this week could push him into the all-important top 60 in time for the Dubai World Championship next month.

"I putted lovely. I played solidly, I didn't play poorly, but I rolled the ball extremely well," Lawrie said.

"The greens this week are some of the best we've seen all year and when the greens are fast and they roll well I tend to hole puts so I did that today.

"When the greens are fast I normally hole my share so I'm hoping that continues."

BMW International Open winner Horsey turned in a one under 35 but burst to life with five birdies in his next seven holes, the highlight being a tee shot to six feet at the par three 16th.

France's Jean-Baptiste Gonnet, Scot Gary Orr, BMW PGA Championship winner Simon Khan and his English compatriot Richard Finch share fourth overnight on five under.

Two of Spain's best-known golfers were making a welcome return to European Tour action, and Sergio Garcia carded a respectable level par round on his home course.

But his playing partner José Maria Olazábal will have work to do in his second round if he is to make the cut on his return from injury after a two over par 73.

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