Thursday, 19 October 2017
Day One Highlights - Andalucia Valderrama Masters

Sergio Garcia thrilled the home crowd to take a share of the first-round lead at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation.

The Spaniard has claimed five of his 13 European Tour wins so far on home soil, including the last staging of this event in 2011 when he became the first home player to win a stroke play event at Real Club Valderrama.

He fired a 66 - his best opening round at the 1997 Ryder Cup venue - on Thursday to get to five under and sit at the top of the leaderboard alongside Dutchman Joost Luiten.

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.

Home favourite Pablo Larrazábal and England's Robert Rock were at four under, a shot 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 from 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.

"It was nice," said Garcia. "It was gettable because it was soft but you still had to hit good shots and I was able to do that for the most part of the day. I'm very happy with my round.

"The game was on pretty much all day. I hit my irons very well, I didn't drive the ball well on the eighth hole but I was pretty much spot on there and I made some nice putts here and there. The greens were rolling quite fast, more than anything the back nine was even faster than the front. Overall I think it was very solid."

Luiten 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.

"It was early when I teed off and I thought the back nine was playing tough, playing long and the ball wasn't going as far," said Luiten. "The 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th are pretty much into the wind so you've got to be patient if you're playing that nine first.

"Finally on my back nine, the front nine, I started to hit some really good iron shots and I hit some really close for easy birdies."

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.

Larrazábal opened with a bogey but made a hat-trick of gains from the ninth before putting his approaches to the 16th and 17th to close range.

Peterson - who needs a top-five finish this week to have a chance of keeping his playing privileges - gave back a birdie on the third with a bogey on the fourth before picking up shots on the sixth, 11th and 13th.

There was then a group of ten players at two under, many of whom are battling for their cards this week.

England's James Morrison 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.

Countryman Oliver Wilson needs a win this week while another Englishman - Richard Finch - needs to finish at least second to have a chance, as does Argentinian Ricardo Gonzalez.

A top 35 finish could keep Ben Evans on Tour while Portuguese Ricardo Gouveia is less than 500 points outside the top ten on the Access List.

Andrew Johnston - a winner here last season at the Real Club Valderrama Open de España, hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation - was also three off the lead alongside Swede Peter Hanson, Scotland's Scott Jamieson and Italian Edoardo Molinari.

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