CASTELLON, Spain – Paul Lawrie and Ricardo Gonzalez shot 7-under 64s Thursday to tie for the first-round lead at the Castello Masters, and Sergio Garcia had a 71 in his return from a two-month break.
Lawrie and Gonzalez each had seven birdies in bogey-free rounds on the Club de Campo del Mediterraneo course. England’s David Horsey, the winner of the BMW International in June, was one shot back after a 65, also bogey-free.
Garcia was two shots ahead of compatriot Jose Maria Olazabal, who was playing in his second tournament of 2010.
Gonzalez’s round gives him hope of retaining his European playing card for the 12th straight year. The Argentine is 125th on the European money list and without a top-10 finish in the last nine months.
He said his success Thursday owed much to a short lesson he received in Spain on Wednesday from 1999 Masters champion Olazabal.
“My driving and long game has been in order for some time,” Gonzalez said. “But I have not been scoring well all year because of my putting.
“On practice day Jose Maria gave me a little bit of advice about my putting stroke. He told me I needed to alter my posture and at first what he said was very uncomfortable. But today as the ball started to drop into the hole that discomfort started to disappear.”
The slick putting greens also helped Lawrie shoot his lowest tournament score in over three years.
The 1999 British Open Champion has slipped to 225 in the world and has not won in Europe for eight years, but had a run of seven birdies in nine holes midway through his round.
“The greens were great, they were really fast and smooth and when they are like that I tend to putt well,” he said. “But when they are that quick you also have to be a bit cautious with putts so they don’t race by the hole.”
While Olazabal helped Gonzalez, the Spanish veteran wasn’t altogether pleased with his round.
“Given the circumstances I played OK,” said Olazabal, who suffers from acute rheumatism. “I have not been able to practice for a long time and while I could not say I played well neither did I play badly.”