Host Sergio Garcia shares Valderrama Masters lead

CADIZ, SPAIN - OCTOBER 19:  Sergio Garcia of Spain and Shane Lowry of Ireland (R) shake on the 9th green during day one of the Andalucia Valderrama Masters at Real Club Valderrama on October 19, 2017 in Cadiz, Spain.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
CADIZ, SPAIN - OCTOBER 19: Sergio Garcia of Spain and Shane Lowry of Ireland (R) shake on the 9th green during day one of the Andalucia Valderrama Masters at Real Club Valderrama on October 19, 2017 in Cadiz, Spain. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
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Tournament host Sergio Garcia claimed a share of the lead after the first round of his belated title defence in 
the Andalucia Valderrama Masters.

Garcia, who won the last staging of the event in 2011, carded seven birdies and two bogeys in an opening 66 to finish five-under-par alongside Dutchman Joost Luiten.

Fellow Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal and England’s Robert Rock were a shot off the lead, but world No 5 Jon Rahm struggled to a three-over 74 in his first professional tournament on home soil.

Masters champion Garcia started on the back nine and birdied the 10th, 12th, 15th and 18th to reach the turn in 32, before following a bogey on the first with three birdies in four holes from the third.

At that point, the 37-year-old enjoyed a two-shot lead, but a wayward drive on the eighth led to a second bogey of the day as Luiten came home in 31 to join Garcia at the head of affairs.

“It was unfortunately very wet after the rain yesterday and this morning but the course is holding up well and towards the end of the round the ball wasn’t even picking up mud on the fairways,” 
Garcia said.

“Obviously it was gettable because it was soft but you still have to hit good shots and I was able to do that for the most part of the day. I hit my irons very well and drove the ball well other than on the eighth hole. I made some nice putts here and there and overall it was very solid. I’m very happy with my round.”

Luiten, who was second behind Andrew Johnston when Valderrama hosted the Spanish Open last year, also started on the back nine and was only level par after 
11 holes, but birdied five of the next six. “Early on I thought it was playing tough and you have to be patient,” Luiten said. “Finally on my back nine I started to hit some really good iron shots and hit some close for easy birdies. I hit four shots within three feet and that makes this game a 
lot easier.”

Johnston was three under par after eight holes but eventually had to settle for an opening 69, while former Masters champion Danny Willett was a shot behind on one under.

Scott Jamieson fared best among the seven Scots in the field with a two-under 69. An effort containing three birdies left the 33-year-old sitting joint sixth as he bids to climb around 10 spots from 80th in the Race to Dubai in order to be involved at the start of the Final Series in Turkey in a 
fortnight’s time.

Chasing the same goal, 77th-ranked Stephen Gallacher opened with a disappointing 77 to sit alongside Scott Henry – former Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, too – in joint 108th, but it was a better day for David Law.

On a rare European Tour start, the Aberdonian is sitting joint 27th after an encouraging 71, though it looked like being a lot better until he dropped shots at his closing three holes.

In what, by the looks of things anyway, is his final outing as a Tour professional, Craig Lee signed for a 74, one better than both Connor Syme and Duncan Stewart.

On his first tough day in the paid ranks, Fifer Syme dropped four shots in his opening seven holes and had to wait until the eighth – his 17th – for a first birdie.

Needing to finish no worse than tied for second to hang on to his card, Stewart had five bogeys, including two in last three holes.