I'm just really happy – Perez takes early Andalucia lead

A blemish-free first round of 65 helped Frenchman Victor Perez to a one-shot lead at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Thursday.

Perez carded six birdies on day one at Real Club Valderrama and could have been joined at the top of the leaderboard by Christiaan Bezuidenhout.

But the South African dropped a shot on the 18th hole as he joined a group of five players on five under at the European Tour event, including Sergio Garcia.

“I’m very pleased, first round 65 with six birdies,” Perez said.

“Very pleased to keep the card clean – it’s one of the toughest places to do it.

“I was just really happy, we had a really good game plan going in taking advantage of the softer conditions. It’s as soft as the course is going to be this week. Off to a great start.”

Perez has never won a European Tour event but entered the event in good form, having finished in a tie for fifth at the GolfSixes Cascais earlier this month.

Garcia’s strong first round was no surprise. The Sergio Garcia Foundation is hosting the tournament and the Spaniard has won the event three times (2011, 2017 and 2018).

“I love this place, there is no doubt about that. It kind of has something with me that helps me,” Garcia said.

“Today was a great round, I hit the ball very well. It’s probably the best that I’ve felt in quite a while.

“It’s just the first round and we have to keep building on that … there’s still a lot of golf to be played.”

The highlight of Perez’s round was three birdies in a row from the ninth while Bezuidenhout caught the eye with a day that included eight birdies and three bogeys.

Bezuidenhout produced four birdies in a row from hole eight and had to play in the afternoon, when the going seemed tougher.

Joining Garcia and Bezuidenhout on five under was American Sihwan Kim, Swede Anton Karlsson and Malaysian Gavin Green.

Four players were a further shot adrift in a tie for seventh, including Welshman Bradley Dredge who eagled the par four ninth en route to a four-under 67.