Sergio Garcia equalled his lowest round of the season to claim a one-shot lead in the BMW Masters as he looked to seize his last chance to win on the European Tour this year.
Garcia, who is not playing the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai next week, has won 11 times on Tour but back-to-back sixth place finishes in the Open and European Masters are his best results of the campaign.
However, the 35-year-old Spaniard was 11th in the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai last week and continued that good form across the city at Lake Malaren with nine birdies and one bogey in an opening 64, matching his final round from Switzerland.
Starting from the 10th, Garcia birdied four of his first five holes before dropping a shot on the 17th to reach the turn in 33. Further birdies on the first, second, fourth, sixth and seventh saw Garcia home in 31 to finish eight under par, one shot ahead of Ryder Cup team-mate Victor Dubuisson and BMW PGA Championship winner Byeong Hun An.
Dubuisson, who won the Turkish Airlines Open a fortnight ago, carded a flawless 65 which was matched by playing partner An, with England’s Ross Fisher – who lost out in a play-off last year – and Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard a shot behind.
Richie Ramsay is the leading Scot after an opening 68. Compatriots Stephen Gallacher and Marc Warren both had par rounds of 72.
With Rory McIlroy not competing, his rivals in the Race to Dubai have the chance to overtake the four-time major winner in the standings. England’s Danny Willett just needs to finish 28th or better in the 78-man field, while Shane Lowry, Louis Oosthuizen and Justin Rose must finish second or better and Branden Grace requires a win.
Rose birdied four of his last seven holes to shoot 67, with Lowry and Oosthuizen two under and Grace one under. Willett carded a level-par 72.