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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.

606: DEBATE
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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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