Thursday, 19 October 2017
Sergio Garcia  (Getty Images)
Sergio Garcia (Getty Images)

Sergio Garcia fired his lowest opening round at Real Club Valderrama to take a share of the clubhouse lead on day one of the Andalucia Valderrama Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation.

The home favourite became the first Spaniard to win a European Tour stroke play event on the famous layout when he won the last staging of this event in 2011 and an opening 66 got him to five under and into a share of top spot with Dutchman Joost Luiten.

His previous best opener at the 1997 Ryder Cup venue was at the 2004 Volvo Masters Andalucia where he went on to lose out in a play-off to Ian Poulter.

Garcia recorded seven birdies and two bogeys in his effort while Luiten produced some stunning iron play to birdie five of his last seven holes as he searches for a first win of the season.

England's Robert Rock was then a shot off the lead, one clear of American Paul Peterson.

The Masters Tournament champion started on the tenth and made birdies on his first, the 12th, the 15th and the 18th to turn in 32.

A bogey on the first stalled his progress but he holed a long right-to-lefter off the front of the third green and then played the par five fourth in textbook fashion for another birdie. A five foot putt on the sixth moved him two ahead but an errant drive on the eighth left a tricky second shot and after he hit a tree, the 37 year old did well to get up and down for bogey.

That left the door ajar for Luiten and he burst through it with that brilliant finish.

The 31 year old birdied the 12th to turn in 35 but a dropped shot on the second left him level par with seven to play. He then came alive, birdieing the third and fourth, putting his tee-shot on the sixth and approach to the seventh to tap-in range, and then playing a brilliant shot from the rough on the next for three birdies in a row.

Rock had set the early pace with birdies on the second, third, fifth and ninth and when he added further gains on the 12th and 13th he looked to be in total control before back-to-back bogeys on the 14th and 15th.

Peterson gave back a birdie on the third with a bogey on the fourth before picking up shots on the sixth, 11th and 13th.

Andrew Johnston - a winner here last season at the Real Club Valderrama Open de España, hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation - was then at two under alongside fellow Englishman James Morrison, who sits 101st in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex but would be well placed on the Access List should he drop out of that top 101 to keep his playing privileges.

Englishman Richard Finch and Argentinian Ricardo Gonzalez need to finish in the top two this week to have a chance at keeping their cards and they were also three off the lead alongside Scotland's Scott Jamieson.

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