Sergio Garcia opens up four-shot lead at Nedbank Golf Challenge
By Ali Stafford
Last Updated: 09/11/18 3:57pm
Sergio Garcia continued his resurgence in form as he opened up a four-stroke lead at the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player.
Garcia fired his lowest opening round since 2015 as he struck eight birdies in a bogey-free 64 at Gary Player CC, giving himself a commanding cushion over a three-way tie for second.
Mike Lorenzo-Vera carded a blemish-free 68 to join Charl Schwartzel and Mikko Korhonen as Garcia's nearest challengers on four under, with Matt Wallace and Andy Sullivan part of the group a further shot adrift.
Defending champion Branden Grace is six off the pace after a two-under 70, while Rory McIlroy - one of five players who can still win the Race to Dubai - opened with a level-par 72.
Garcia bounced back from a torrid summer to help Europe to Ryder Cup victory and then returned to the winner's circle in his last start at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, hosted by his foundation, before making a fast start to his week in South Africa.
The Spaniard holed a 12-footer on his opening hole and converted from even further out at the seventh, with a long-range birdie at the ninth followed by a two-putt gain at the tenth.
A third straight gain at the par-four 11th, where Garcia holed from the fringe, gave him the outright advantage before he doubled his lead with an eight-foot gain at the par-four 15th.
After firing his tee-shot at the 16th to three feet and picking up another shot when he rolled in a winding 12-foot at the next, Garcia missed the final green but pitched it close and saved his par.
McIlroy had briefly been within two of Garcia after following a front-nine 34 with a birdie at the 13th, only to hit his tee shot in to trees at the par-five 14th and double-bogey his penultimate hole.
Early starter Danny Willett reached the turn in a share of the lead but sits 14 strokes off the pace after firing three bogeys, a double-bogey and a triple-bogey on his way to a six-over 78.
Watch the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player throughout the week live on Sky Sports. Live coverage continues on Friday from 8am on Sky Sports Golf.