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Irish fight to make the cut while Garcia's Valderrama love affair continues

 

Fun time: Sergio Garcia at ninth hole in the opening round of the Andalucia Masters yesterday
Fun time: Sergio Garcia at ninth hole in the opening round of the Andalucia Masters yesterday

By Brian Keogh and Phil Casey

Seamus Power must step on the gas in Motor City today after opening with a 73 in the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club.

One of the big local attractions at next week's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch, the West Waterford star (32) knows he could quickly find himself entangled in another battle to keep his card if he misses the cut.

Ranked 122nd in the FedExCup standings, he three-putted the 18th for double-bogey six to trail early leader Nate Lashley by 10 strokes.

Lashley (36) made nine birdies in a nine-under 63 to lead by two shots in the clubhouse from Charles Howell III and Talor Gooch.

Paul Dunne, Gavin Moynihan and Belfast's Michael Hoey also have work to do to make the cut in the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama, where Sergio Garcia made a fast start in his bid for an incredible fourth successive win there.

The Spaniard has been in poor form recently, missing three of his last four cuts, but he loves Valderrama and shot a five-under 66 to lie just a shot behind Frenchman Victor Perez as Irish Open-bound Jon Rahm posted a 69.

But it was a tough day for the Irish with Moynihan tied 73rd after a 73 as Hoey shot 74 and Dunne a 75.

Garcia's love affair with Valderrama shows no signs of abating after the tournament host made a flawless start to his bid for a fourth straight win in the Andalucia Masters.

Garcia first claimed the title in 2011 before it dropped off the European Tour schedule for five years and he then won in both 2017 and 2018, when bad weather meant a 54-hole event and a Monday finish.

In total the former Masters champion has recorded an incredible 13 top-10 finishes in 14 appearances at Valderrama and a bogey-free 66 in yesterday's opening round left the 39-year-old just a shot off the lead held by Perez.

"I love this place, there's no doubt about that," said Garcia, who has missed the cut in three of his last four starts and said he "looked like a 25-handicapper" during the recent US Open at Pebble Beach.

"Today was a great round, probably the best I've felt in quite a while. Even though the conditions were great - there wasn't much wind and this course is so pure - you still have to hit the shots in the right places and to be able to go bogey-free here it's always a treat.

"It (Valderrama) kind of has something that helps me. It was a great first round but it was just the first round, we have to keep building on that and we're looking forward to a good week. You've got to go one step at a time, there's a lot of golf to be played."

Perez, who has missed the cut in four of his last five starts, carded six birdies in a bogey-free 65 to lead by one from Garcia, Anton Karlsson, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Sihwan Kim and Gavin Green, with world number 11 Rahm three shots further back following a 69.

"Two under par is a great round and hopefully I can come out early in the morning and do what the leaders did and shoot something low," Rahm said after a round containing an eagle, four birdies and four bogeys.

"I think it's my first round under par here in a tournament. It feels good coming out of Pebble (Beach) playing some solid rounds, I just hope I can keep that going and avoid the few mistakes I made today."

Tramore's Robin Dawson was the best of the Irish raiders in the Italian Challenge Open, chiselling out a one-under 71 to lie five adrift of South Africa's Bryce Easton and Spain's Carlos Pigem at Terre dei Consoli.

But after shooting 12 rounds in the 60s and racking up three top tens in his last four starts, Ardglass native Cormac Sharvin posted a 74 to share 92nd with Derry's Ruaidhri McGee as Bangor's Daniel Peacock shot 75 and West Waterford's Gary Hurley a five-over 77.

Darren Clarke was among the later starters in the US Senior Open at Warren Golf Club in Indiana, where David Toms made 10 birdies in an eight-under 62 to lead by two strokes from Kirk Triplett.

In amateur golf, Dundalk's Caolan Rafferty's two-over 74 left him tied 10th, five shots behind England's Harry Hall on three-under at the halfway point in the European Amateur Championship at Diamond Country Club in Austria.

Massereene's Tiarnan McLarnon powered to a joint best of the day 68 to lie a shot further back in 19th with Kilkenny's Mark Power joint 32nd on one-under after a 76.

Meanwhile, female members have been formally invited to join the world's oldest golf club at Muirfield in Scotland for the first time.

The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, who are based at the East Lothian Links, voted to change their controversial membership policy barring women two years ago.

After receiving applications and assessing them through their traditional lengthy procedure, the club have now invited 12 women to take up membership of the 275-year-old organisation from July 1.

Alistair Campbell, captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, said: "This marks a milestone in the club's illustrious history, and we look forward to welcoming all of our new members to share in the great values and traditions of our club."

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