Garcia five back of near flawless Ramsay


SOTOGRANDE, Spain – Richie Ramsay shot a 6-under 65 Thursday to take a two-shot lead after the first round of the Andalucia Masters.

The 28-year-old Ramsay birdied four of the first 10 holes before an eagle-3 at the 11th. He chipped in for another birdie at the par-3 15th before his only blemish on the Valderrama course, a bogey at the par-5 17th.

“Valderrama is the kind of course that suits me,” said Ramsay, whose lone European Tour victory came in South Africa in 2009. “This course is a good challenge for me. You need to play it shot by shot, and that’s all I did.”

The former U.S. Amateur champion took advantage of the favorable morning conditions, as most of the top scores were made before the wind picked up and trickles of rain came down over Valderrama, a course famed for its tight fairways and undulating greens.

Sergio Garcia, coming off his first victory in three years and hoping to become the first Spanish champion at Valderrama since it started hosting events in 1988, was five shots back in a tie for fifth after an inconsistent round.

Garcia was at 4 under after an eagle at No. 11, but had two bogeys and a double bogey over the next three holes. He finished the round by knocking in a short birdie putt at the 18th to sit tied with Peter Lawrie, Scott Strangeand David Drysdale on 70.

Ross Fisher of England was Ramsay’s closest challenger, while Frenchman Gregory Havret and Scottish golfer Stephen Gallagher both shot 68 to trail by three.

Fisher made three early birdies before a triple bogey at No. 8. But he stuck an approach at the next hole to within 4 feet for another birdie, and picked up three more shots on the back nine.

Martin Kaymer started with three bogeys but recovered for a 71, to sit level with playing partner Miguel Angel Jimenez and five other players, including Francesco Molinaro. The Italian watched his putt from the fringe wobble in for a birdie at the tough 17th.

Justin Rose was among a group of eight players tied on 72, while defending champion Graeme McDowell trailed Ramsay by eight shots after a difficult start.

McDowell nearly had a hole-in-one at the par-3 15th but missed his birdie putt. He then bogeyed No. 16 and rolled a 10-foot birdie putt wide after recovering from a terrible approach at the tough 17th.

“Didn’t control my ball well at all, but kinda hung tough,” McDowell wrote on Twitter. “2 over not a disastrous start. Got to control my ball flight better than that if I’m going to compete this weekend.”