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Page last updated at 16:01 GMT, Thursday, 27 January 2011

Sergio Garcia in touch in Bahrain as Johan Edfors leads

First round leaderboard (par=72):
-8 J Edfors (Swe) -6 P Larrazabal (Sp), P Hanson (Swe), F Molinari (It), G Storm (Eng) -5 A Noren (Swe), J Kingston (SA), R Green (Aus), S Garcia (Sp), A Qurios (Sp), M Manassero (It), P Casey (Eng), JM Singh (Ind)
Selected others: -4 MA Jimenez (Sp), E Molinari (It) -3 D Clarke (NI) -2 P Harrington (Ire), JM Olazabal (Sp) level C Montgomerie (Sco), I Poulter (Eng)

Sergio Garcia in Bahrain
Garcia showed glimpses of his undoubted ability in a fine opening 67

Former world number two Sergio Garcia carded a five under 67 to lie three off the first-day lead at the inaugural Golf Champions tournament in Bahrain.

The 31-year-old took 10 weeks off at the end of last year after slipping to number 80 in the world rankings but did not drop a shot in his opening round.

Paul Casey also finished five under, with Padraig Harrington and Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal two under.

Sweden's Johan Edfors holds a two-shot advantage after nine birdies in his 64.

Edfors, who has played more than 100 European Tour events without adding to his three wins in 2006, was presented with a bottle of champagne after setting the new course record on the Colin Montgomerie designed 7,224-yard lay-out at the Royal Golf Club in Riffa.

"I think I am a lot better player than five years ago, but the results have not really shown that," said the 35-year-old, who was one shot from his career-low of 63 recorded en route to the 2006 Scottish Open title at Loch Lomond.

"It's all up to where they put the flags here. I had a bunch of chances from around 15 feet and holed a few of them."

There was some criticism of the severity of the undulations on the putting surfaces and Edfors said: "They look really, really big in the yardage book. But when you get out there and have a look at it, you can almost scrap half of the green because you can't stop it. It's going to roll off the green anyway."

Ryder Cup player Francesco Molinari sank a long putt up the difficult slope on the final green to collect his seventh birdie of the day and join a group of four sharing second.

Colin Montgomerie
Course designer Colin Montgomerie drives at the dramatic 18th hole

Former Ryder Cup captain Montgomerie opened with a 72, suffering a triple bogey seven at the fifth, his 15th, before making birdies at two of his closing three holes.

The veteran Scotsman was in an amiable three-ball with Darren Clarke and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Clarke had five birdies and two bogeys in an eventful first nine but returned a round of 69, with 47-year-old bon viveur Jimenez posting six birdies in a 68.

World number nine Casey, the top-ranked player in the field, began at the 10th and overcame a double bogey at his eighth to finish with an eagle at the 541-yard ninth after a five-wood of 258 yards on to the green.

"That was the best swing I made all day," the 33-year-old said. "There were times when I wasn't sure I would shoot under par, so it was just a wonderful way to finish."

Harrington, disqualified last week in Abu Dhabi after a TV viewer spotted his ball had moved when he picked up his marker, fought his way to a 70 but admitted he "struggled big time.

"I just struggled to focus, but limited the damage as much as I could," the three-time major winner added.

Ian Poulter, who missed the cut last week, had a costly finish with two bogeys in the final three holes, taking three from the edge of the 18th green and finishing on level par.


Apart from playing at the Castellon Masters, which he hosts, and the European season-ender in Dubai, where he shared 21st place, the last time Garcia was seen on the course since his break from playing was as a vice-captain in Europe's Ryder Cup success at Celtic Manor in October.

It was his best score on the European Tour for just over a year, after he began 2010 with rounds of 66 and 67 in Abdu Dhabi only to fall away and fail to finish in the top three all year.

"I hit a lot of good putts, a lot of good strokes," said Garcia. "Some really nice shots, and a couple of shots in there that I kind of would like to hit again but I think it was definitely the right way to start the year."

Asked about the greens he said: "It's a shame it's so hilly because you can't get them faster, but it was definitely a positive start."

Compatriot Alvaro Quiros made a more eventful 67, featuring nine birdies and two visits to the water which resulted in double bogeys at the seventh and 18th.

Italian prodigy Matteo Manassero, the 17-year-old who became the circuit's youngest winner in Spain last October, joined them at five under, his day spoilt only by a missed 18-inch putt on the first, his 10th.

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see also
Garcia shines as Woods struggles
12 Nov 10 |  Golf
Garcia to miss out on Ryder Cup
14 Aug 10 |  Golf
Garcia to take a two-month break
08 Aug 10 |  Golf

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