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Garcia’s quest for fourth Andalucia Masters begins on bright note

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PALM BEACH GARDENS, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 27: Sergio Garcia of Spain hits a shot during a practice round prior to the Honda Classic at PGA National Resort and Spa on February 27, 2019 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Sam Greenwood/Getty Images/AFP

Sergio Garcia’s love affair with Valderrama shows no signs of abating after the tournament host made a flawless start to his bid for a fourth straight win in the Andalucia Masters, reports rte.ie.

Garcia first claimed the title in 2011 before it dropped off the European Tour schedule for five years and he then won in both 2017 and 2018, when bad weather meant a 54-hole event and a Monday finish.

In total, the former Masters champion has recorded an incredible 13 top-10 finishes in 14 appearances at Valderrama and a bogey-free 66 in yesterday’s opening round left the 39-year-old just a shot off the lead held by France’s Victor Perez.

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“I love this place, there’s no doubt about that,” said Garcia, who has missed the cut in three of his last four starts and said he “looked like a 25-handicapper” during the recent US Open.

“Today was a great round, probably the best I’ve felt in quite a while. Even though the conditions were great – there wasn’t much wind and this course is so pure – you still have to hit the shots in the right places and to be able to go bogey-free here it’s always a treat.

“It (Valderrama) kind of has something that helps me. It was a great first round but it was just the first round, we have to keep building on that and we’re looking forward to a good week. You’ve got to go one step at a time, there’s a lot of golf to be played.”

Perez, who has missed the cut in four of his last five starts, carded six birdies in a bogey-free 65 to lead by one from Garcia, Anton Karlsson, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Sihwan Kim and Gavin Green, with world number 11 Jon Rahm three shots further back following a 69.

“Two under par is a great round and hopefully I can come out early in the morning and do what the leaders did and shoot something low,” Rahm said after a round containing an eagle, four birdies and four bogeys.

“I think it’s my first round under par here in a tournament. It feels good coming out of Pebble (Beach) playing some solid rounds, I just hope I can keep that going and avoid the few mistakes I made today.”

Gavin Moynihan is the best of the trio of Irish in the field in Andalusia, the Dubliner is seven shots off the lead after opening with a one-over 72.

All three Irish players shot over-par first rounds with Michael Hoey shooting three over, while Paul Dunne was a shot further back after an opening 75.


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