Flawless García fires 64 for four-shot Nedbank lead

South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen

South African Erik Van Rooyen can start fast

Sergio Garcia played near flawless golf on Thursday to claim the Round 1 lead of the 2018 Nedbank Golf Challenge.

Fresh from his third successive win in the Andalucía Valderrama Masters three weeks ago, Garcia (38) combined impressive tee-to-green play with a clinical putting display.

South Africa's Charl Schwartzel is one of three second-placed players on four-under, along with Finn Mikko Korhonen and Frenchman Mike Lorenzo-Vera.

In 2009, McIlroy lasted one round before food poisoning laid him low and he withdrew, but he has since renewed his acquaintance with South Africa and it's one which pleases him as much as it pleases the SA fans who will flock to see him in action this week.

World No 70 Lowry drove the ball well and finished the day ranked first for putting as he mixed four birdies with three bogeys in his ongoing quest to climb back into the world's top 50 by the spring.

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"It felt great. I rolled the ball nicely, I made some good putts here and there".

"I'm pretty happy with the round", Oosthuizen told reporters. "If I can get into that final group on Thursday with Frankie [Molinari] next week [in Dubai]‚ that would be a good start".

"You have to play the wind as you feel it because it is so inconsistent".

At one stage Garcia led by five shots as he opened his round with birdies on the first two holes, but four bogeys, including the 18th, spoiled his day and allowed others to close in around him.

Ross Fisher (72) looked like he would be one of those before dropping an astonishing eight shots on his final four holes.

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Fisher had eagled the second and picked up six more birdies to reduce Garcia's lead to two shots.

South Africa's defending champion Branden Grace is at two under, along with New Zealand's Ryan Fox, while Rory McIlroy, who went into this tournament still hopeful of winning a fourth Race to Dubai title, is a further two shots back.

In short, it's a tall order and while the Co Down man produced some flashes of brilliance to get to three-under par with five holes to go, he played his last five holes in three-over as Garcia birdied the 15th, 16th and 17th.

Eighth-placed McIlroy is nearly £1.75m behind Molinari and needs to win at least one of the remaining two events to overhaul the Italian, who enjoys a lead of just under £1m from Ryder Cup partner and defending champion Tommy Fleetwood.

"I need to tidy up may game off the tee. Hopefully I can get off to a good start this week‚" said the Ulsterman. "If you do that you give yourself a chance".

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