Thursday, 07 September 2006

Sergio Garcia launched his defence of the Omega European Masters title with a three under par 68 at Crans-sur-Sierre which put the Spaniard two behind the early first leaders, Robert Coles and Anthony Wall of England.

Fellow Englishmen Simon Khan and Sam Little and Argentina's Rafael Gomez lie a shot off the lead at Crans-Sur-Sierre Golf Club in the Swiss Alps while Michelle Wie, playing her first European Tour event, had a later tee-off.

Joint leader Coles is struggling to maintain his European Tour card but the long-serving Tour player was among those who welcomed having the Hawaiian teenager as opposition.

"She's raised the profile of the tournament this week and that's good for all of us," Coles said after breaking a run of bad starts that has left him floundering at 183rd on The European Tour Order of Merit.

"183rd! I'm surprised that many people play," joked Coles.

Regarding his own form he said: "I have struggled. The first round scores have been appalling. I have not got off to any sort of starts and to get off to a decent start today and get into a tournament is great so I am delighted."

Wall is trying to improve on his 16th place on The Order of Merit to help his Major Championship playing causes for next season. The top 15 earn a place in The Open and The US Open. A bogey on the last, when he three-putted, held Wall back.

"I felt good out there today," he said. "I drove the ball well. Holed a couple of putts on the 12th and 13th and from there it was a good day’s work.

"I want to win this year," he added. "It makes things easier for next year and I also want to get in the top 15 to get in the Majors. That is a big thing for me and if not then top 20 as that still gets me in The Open."

Garcia bogeyed his first hole but was otherwise sound as he contended with four birdies in six holes around the turn.

"It was a good round," said the Ryder Cup player. "The golf course is playing tough. The round could definitely have been a couple of shots better although made a couple of nice par putts on the 18th and second. But then I missed a couple of short ones coming in. But 68, as difficult as the course is playing is a pretty decent round. "


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