Sergio Garcia fired a brilliant bogey-free 64 to open up a commanding four-shot lead after round one of the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
The Spaniard has won twice before at Gary Player Country Club before this event joined the European Tour International Schedule and his eight under par total was his lowest round in Sun City since he claimed his first title in 2001.
It was also his lowest opening round of the season by two shots and left him four clear of fellow Masters Tournament winner Charl Schwartzel, Finn Mikko Korhonen and Frenchman Mike Lorenzo-Vera.
That gap matched the largest of the season after 18 holes, recorded by Arjun Atwal at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open almost 12 months ago.
There was then a group of six players at three under including 2010 Open Championship winner Louis Oosthuizen.
Since being selected as a Captain’s Pick for the Ryder Cup by Thomas Bjørn, Garcia has had a top ten at the Portugal Masters, won three points at Le Golf National to become Europe’s all-time leading scorer and won the Andalucia Valderrama Masters hosted by his own foundation.
The 38-year-old is now going in search of a second win in a row and a first Rolex Series victory in South Africa.
‘It felt great,’ he said. ‘I rolled the ball nicely, I made some good putts here and there.
‘It was one of those rounds where things happened nicely to me. I think I played very smart, I probably wasn’t swinging unbelievably but I kept it under control and kept the ball in play all the time which is difficult to do here.
‘I managed to guess some of the winds here right and that is very, very difficult. When you can do that here, it’s nice to be able to shoot a score like this.’
First round leaderboard:
64 – Sergio Garcia
68 – Mike Lorenzo-Vera , Mikko Korhonen , Charl Schwartzel
69 – Ashun Wu , Benjamin Hebert , Andy Sullivan , Matt Wallace , Louis Oosthuizen , Jason Scrivener
70 – Ryan Fox , Branden Grace
71 – Lee Westwood , Shane Lowry , Ross Fisher , Andrea Pavan , Jorge Campillo , Tapio Pulkkanen , Matthew Fitzpatrick , Haotong Li
72 – Joost Luiten , Joakim Lagergren , Chris Paisley , Dean Burmester , Matthias Schwab , Aaron Rai , Richard Mcevoy , Rory McIlroy , Paul Waring , Renato Paratore
73 – Sam Horsfield , Wade Ormsby , Dylan Frittelli , Padraig Harrington , George Coetzee , Andrew Johnston
74 – Lee Slattery , Hideto Tanihara , Marcus Kinhult , Nacho Elvira , Pablo Larrazabal , Julien Guerrier , Shubhankar Sharma , Darren Fichardt , Adrian Otaegui , Brandon Stone , Trevor Immelman
75 – Tom Lewis , Thomas Detry , Robert Rock , Oliver Fisher , Alexander Bjork , Kiradech Aphibarnrat , Gavin Green , Lucas Bjerregaard , Nicolas Colsaerts , Maximilian Kieffer
76 – Martin Kaymer , Lucas Herbert , Thomas Aiken , Thomas Bjorn
77 – Erik van Rooyen , Richard Sterne , Jens Dantorp , Stephen Gallacher
78 – Danny Willett , Paul Dunne , Ashley Chesters , Matthieu Pavon
79 – Jordan Smith
80 – Matthew Southgate
81 – Alexander Levy
Credit: European Tour
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