McGowan (64) takes 2-shot Castello Masters lead

Ross McGowan during Round 1 of the Castello Masters.

CASTELLON, Spain – Ross McGowan shot a 7-under 64 on Thursday to take a two-shot lead after the opening round of the Castello Masters.

The Englishman, ranked No. 543, holed his approach to the par-4 No. 17 for an eagle and made five birdies in a faultless round that left him two strokes ahead of Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti and England’s Richard McEvoy.

“It’s nice to be playing well again and up in contention. I’m just trying to play each shot at a time and put up a good result at the end of the week,” said McGowan, who carded a 64 to lead the Madrid Masters two weeks ago before falling out of the running.

Hometown favorite Sergio Garcia shot 67, leaving him among a group of players at 4 under that includes Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey – making his first appearance since winning the Dunhill Links.

The 31-year-old Garcia, searching for his first European Tour win in almost three years, was 1 over at the turn before sinking five birdies on the back nine.

“It was a slow start, but ... then I got going,” he said.

Defending champion Matteo Manassero opened with five straight birdies, but a double-bogey on No. 15 slowed him down and he finished with a 69.

Tom Lewis, last week’s Portugal Masters champion, recovered from a poor start and finished with a 71, while American Anthony Kang shot 70 and two-time major winner John Daly had a 73.

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