Sergio Garcia continued his remarkable love affair with Real Club Valderrama to sit just one shot off the lead after round one of the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation. The Spaniard has won the last three stagings of this event - in 2011, 2017 and 2018 - and has ten other top tens from 14 appearances at a course he admits is his favourite in the world.
An opening bogey-free round of 66 in Sotogrande left him amongst a group of five players at five under par, one shot behind Frenchman Victor Perez.
European Challenge Tour graduate Perez was also bogey-free in his round of 65 in an impressive start to his debut at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters.
South Africa's Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Malaysian Gavin Green, Swede Anton Karlsson and American Sihwan Kim are also one shot off the lead, with Welshman Bradley Dredge, Japan's Masahiro Kawamura, Frenchman Matthieu Pavon and American Julian Suri one shot further back at four under par.
South African Haydn Porteous, who recorded the third albatross of the season on the 17th hole, joins Spanish pair Pablo Larrazabal and Adri Arnaus amongst a group of ten players at three under par, while world number 11 Jon Rahm joins seven other players one shot further back after lighting up his round with a chip-in eagle on the 11th hole.
Victor Perez: “I'm very pleased to keep the card clean, it's one of the toughest places to do it. I was just really happy, we had a really good game plan going in to take advantage of the softer conditions.
“The fairway is key here. Once you start missing fairways, the greens are so small you're basically meant to be shortsided on your approaches into the greens. There's a lot of slope, it's fast and the greens are really small. The moment you start missing greens it gets tricky.
Sergio Garcia: “I love this place, there is no doubt about that. It kind of has something that helps me. Today was a great round, I hit the ball very well. It's probably the best that I've felt in quite a while.
“Even though the conditions were great, you still have to hit the shots in the right places and to be able to go bogey free here, it's always good.
“It's just the first round and we have to keep building on that and look forward to a good week. It's still Thursday, you've got to go one step at a time, there's still a lot of golf to be played.
Anton Karlsson: “I played great out there today. Had a bogey on the last, but it’s the only tee shot around here that you really have to draw the ball and I’m not really a drawer of the driver, so I’ve bogeyed that hole a few times before.
“Some solid golf, didn’t miss a lot of shots at all out there and that’s kind of what you have to do around here. It’s a great course, it’s definitely one of my favourites.”
Jon Rahm: “Things did turn around on 11 when I chipped it in. I was fully aware before the round started that if you play 12 to 15 even par it’s a great score. I was able to make par in those and then I hit a lot of good shots coming in, but I just didn’t make the putts I had.
“On the other hand, I was happy I two-putted the last because you just don’t want to finish on a bad note. Still, two under par is a great round; hopefully I can come early in the morning and do what the leaders did and shoot something lower.”
A new era for the event was heralded this year when Estrella Damm, the iconic premium lager brand of the Spanish brewing company Damm, became the new title sponsor in a significant five-year deal, which will also see the prize fund rise to €3,000,000 - an increase of €1,000,000 from 2018.
Tickets for the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters 2019 hosted by the Sergio García Foundation are on sale now at the event website. For more information, see the event website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters hosted by the Sergio García Foundation, an event in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai made possible by the essential contribution of the Real Club Valderrama, is sponsored by Estrella Damm and the Consejería de Turismo, Regeneración, Justicia y Administración Local of the Junta de Andalucía, jointly funded by EU and declared Event of Exceptional Public Interest by the Spanish Government. This tournament is also supported by the Diputación de Cádiz, Dubai Duty Free, Rolex, Exterior Plus, La Reserva Club de Sotogrande, Santander Private Banking and Shell. Callaway, Coca-Cola, Enterprise, Grupo Raga, ISDIN, Korporate Technologies Group, Marca, Maui Jim, el Hospital QuirónSalud Campo de Gibraltar, the Real Federación Andaluza de Golf and Volvo are official suppliers. 5J, Gadira, Grupo Joly and Varma collaborate in the event as well.