Shane Lowry starts strong at rainy Valderrama

Sergio Garcia sits two off the clubhouse lead after a weather-affected day in Andalucia

 Sergio Garcia in action during the first round of the Andalucia Valderrama Master. Photograph: A Carrasco Ragel/EPA

Sergio Garcia in action during the first round of the Andalucia Valderrama Master. Photograph: A Carrasco Ragel/EPA

 

Tournament host Sergio Garcia made an excellent start to his bid for a third-straight victory in the weather-affected Andalucia Masters.

Garcia has finished outside the top 10 just once in 13 previous appearances at Valderrama and an opening 68 left him two shots off the clubhouse lead held by England’s Ashley Chesters.

A thunderstorm delayed the start of play by two hours and another in early afternoon led to a further suspension of play which meant half the 126-strong field did not complete their rounds.

Shane Lowry was the only Irish golfer to complete his first round and a two-under 69 left him in a share of seventh position.

Starting on the 10th hole, Lowry picked up back-to-back birdies on the 12th and 13th holes but he then stitched together two bogeys on the 15th and 16th to turn in level par.

He would card three birdies on his back nine, with a single bogey coming on the sixth.

Pádraig Harrington made par at each of the eight holes he played before darkness fell, while Gavin Moynihan is in line for a long day on Friday after completing just three holes in level par.

Loose shots

“It was nice,” Garcia told Sky Sports after his first round since becoming the top points scorer in Ryder Cup history in Europe’s victory at Le Golf National in Paris.

“Obviously I didn’t feel as smooth when I came back from the break. I hit a great shot on six, unfortunately missed that birdie putt and then hit a couple of loose shots, but any time you shoot under par on this course, it doesn’t matter the conditions, I’m obviously happy about it.

“I saw a lot of great things, a couple of things that we need to improve but overall it was a good day.

“To be here at my favourite golf course to play, where I’m a member from last year onwards, it’s great fun and hopefully we’ll get a little bit lucky. It doesn’t look like the weather is going to be very helpful but it would be nice to get as many rounds as possible.”

Chesters carded six birdies and a solitary bogey in a five-under-par 66 which gave him a one-shot lead over France’s Gregory Bourdy, with Australia’s Jason Scrivener alongside Garcia on three under.

“Considering all the delays and everything, I’m happy with that and the last few holes are probably the best I played all day,” Chesters said after birdies on the 17th and 18th.

“It’s not a long-hitters course so it does suit me because you just need to get it in position off the tee.

“The forecast for the rest of the week isn’t good either so I was just thinking to myself, ‘nobody knows how many holes we’re going to get played’, so I was just trying to make as many birdies as I can and get in.”

Bourdy needs to finish joint second or better to retain his European Tour card after failing to record a top-30 finish all season.

The 36-year-old is 179th on the money list, with the top 116 at the end of the week securing full playing privileges for next season.

COMPLETED FIRST-ROUND SCORES
(British and Irish unless stated, par 71) – Play to resume at 9am on Friday morning

66 Ashley Chesters

67 Gregory Bourdy (Fra)

68 Jason Scrivener (Aus), Sergio Garcia (Esp)

69 Jason Norris (Aus), Richie Ramsay, Matthew Nixon, Shane Lowry, Jorge Campillo (Esp), Mikko Korhonen (Fij), Darren Fichardt (Rsa)

70 Rak hyun Cho (Kor), Nino Bertasio (Ita)

71 Mikael Lundberg (Swe), Lasse Jensen (Den), Sebastian Heisele (Ger), Pep Angles (Esp), Oliver Fisher, Robert Rock, Alejandro Canizares (Esp), Pedro Oriol (Esp), Marcus Fraser (Aus), Lee Westwood

72 Ricardo Gouveia (Por), Paul Waring, Callum Shinkwin, Carlos Pigem (Esp), Jin-ho Choi (Kor), Lee Slattery, David Drysdale, Eduardo Ger Lao Riva (Esp), Wade Ormsby (Aus)

73 Anders Hansen (Den), Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez (Esp), Joost Luiten (Ned), Gary Stal (Fra), Bradley Neil, Kim Koivu (Fij), Connor Syme, David Lipsky (USA), Gregory Havret (Fra)

74 Marcel Siem (Ger), Jeff Winther (Den), Daniel Im (USA), Jonathan Thomson, Alexander Knappe (Ger), Bradley Dredge

75 Phachara Khongwatmai (Tha), Soren Kjeldsen (Den), Chris Hanson, Andrew Dodt (Aus), Renato Paratore (Ita), Thongchai Jaidee (Tha), Soomin Lee (Kor)

76 Daniel Brooks, Clement Sordet (Fra), Matteo Manassero (Ita), Gavin Green (Mal)

77 Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa), Scott Fernandez (Esp)

78 Pablo Larrazabal (Esp)

79 Duncan Stewart, Romain Wattel (Fra), Santiago Tarrio Ben (Esp)

80 Sebastien Gros (Fra)

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