Bezuidenhout opens up four-stroke lead in Andalucia

Sergio Garcia has a job on his hands to claim a third consecutive Andalucia Valderrama Masters title after Christiaan Bezuidenhout took a four-stroke lead into the weekend.

South Africa’s Bezuidenhout backed up Thursday’s five-under 66 with an assured 68 to reach eight under – only dropping a shot on the par-four seventh, where he also fell foul during the first round.

Garcia, who also won an event that is hosted by his foundation in 2011, is one of four players four shots back, alongside compatriots Adri Arnaus and Alvaro Quiros and Wales’ Bradley Dredge.

“First of all, I just kept it in play really nicely,” Bezuidenhout told the European Tour’s official website. “That’s the key thing here, hitting fairways. I was driving it really well. On a course like this you can score well if you hit the fairways but if you don’t you can really struggle.

“I prefer the tougher conditions. It’s tough for everyone, the wind is getting quite a bit stronger, you just have to face it.

“It’s going to be tough – it’s tough without wind – so I’m just hoping to do the same, hit fairways and greens, give myself chances and see where I finish up.”

It was a mixed bag from 2017 Masters champion Garcia, who birdied the first to capitalise on his opening-round 66, but needed a chip-in to turn in 35 having dropped shots at seven and eight.

A three-putt bogey on the par-five 11th meant a birdie at 17 was much-needed, only for the host to drop another shot on the last.

Jon Rahm has plenty to do to join the Spanish contingent in the chasing pack after bogeys on the final two holes left him one under at halfway.

Overnight leader Victor Perez tumbled back after his blemish-free opening 65, carding a three-over 74 to sit in a group of five players tied for sixth.

Mikko Korhonen, Scott Jamieson, George Coetzee and Gaganjeet Bhullar are also three under for the tournament.