The Spaniards reigned in Spain as Sergio Garcia and José Manuel Lara seized a share of the lead in the first round of the Volvo Masters Andalucia at Club de Golf Valderrama. The two ‘home boys’ signed for four under par rounds of 67 to lead by one stroke from England’s Brian Davis and Alastair Forsyth of Scotland.
Garcia, Europe’s talisman at The 35th Ryder Cup Matches last month, winning four and a half points out of five, is aiming for back to back victories following his success in the Mallorca Classic, while Lara, at the age of 27, is seeking his big breakthrough on The European Tour.
While Garcia experienced difficult, blustery conditions towards the end of an exciting day on the Costa del Sol, Lara’s early start allowed him to enjoy the calmest of the weather. On the debit side, though, Lara had to contend with the pain of a bee sting on his foot at the fifth hole.
Literally stung into action – and limping his way through the next three holes – the man from Valencia went on to register five birdies in his last ten holes. He admitted: “I have a bad cold and then the bee stung me, so maybe I played with less pressure because my mind was on other things!
“The sting bothered me for about four holes then I started to birdie holes and didn’t even remember it! The important thing is that I took advantage of the birdie chances. I felt very comfortable but you can’t ever say you are in control, because if the wind blows, it’s very complicated.”
Earlier this year, Lara played in the final pairing on Sunday with eventual champion, Retief Goosen, in the Smurfit European Open in Ireland. A Sunday showdown with fellow Spaniard, Garcia, would give him immense satisfaction this week.
“I played well in Ireland” he observed. “I am giving myself more options. I finished third in Qatar, so I am getting closer and closer.”
Garcia restricted his mistakes to a solitary bogey at the third hole. After that he reeled off five birdies for his 67 to join Lara at the top of the leaderboard. He commented: “I really enjoy it when a course is tough. There are some places where if you don’t make every putt you don’t have a chance of winning. Here, you don’t need to make everything, shoot even or one under and you’re still in the tournament.”
The 24 year old could have taken the outright lead, but efforts from nine feet and seven feet at the 17th and 18th respectively, stayed above ground.
Davis and Forsyth moved within a stroke of the lead with rounds of 68, one better than an international quartet of players in Christian Cévaër of France, England’s Luke Donald and Jonathan Lomas and Australian Peter O’Malley.
Forsyth had good cause to feel satisfied with his score, having been nine over par after eight holes of the first round 12 months ago. This time he birdied the eighth to be two under par and, as he said contentedly: “There was an 11 shot swing right there!”
Davis came home in 33 to join Forsyth on 68 and admitted a fondness for the course where he finished third in the same event last year after a closing round of 66. He said: “It’s a course that you have to get to know because of the elevation. It’s hard to get the clubbing right and it’s a struggle to make pars. One loose shot can lead to you scoring anything.”
Donald, who had not seen Valderrama since his days as an England amateur, turned in 37 but covered the back nine in four under par for a 69. It was a typically resilient effort from the young Englishman who said: “I was determined to shoot a good back nine as I hadn’t done a lot wrong on the front nine.
“I knew there were a few opportunities out there although the wind picked up while we were out there. But that’s the penalty for doing well – you get late tee times and I look forward to playing late on the weekends.”