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Garcia’s five birdies gives her a share of the lead in China
- Updated: May 12, 2016
South Africa’s Nicole Garcia fired five birdies for a share of the Buick Championship lead on Thursday, while compatriot Stacy Bregman lies just one off the pace in the Ladies European Tour event at the Shanghai Qishong Garden Golf Club in China.
Garcia signed for an opening four-under-par 68 and shares pole position with Melissa Reid from England and Becky Morgan from Scotland, while Bregman sits in the eight-man bus at three under.
Garcia notched a pair of birdies at the third and fourth holes to get her campaign underway.
The 2015 Sunshine Ladies Tour champion added further gains at 11 and 13. She had a slight hiccup at the short 16th, but offset the lone bogey with a birdie at the closing hole.
‘I’m really pleased to break par this early in the season,’ said the 25-year-old Ebotse golfer. ‘It’s funny actually, because the last time I shot a sub-par round on the Ladies European Tour it was also in China at the Xiamen International Open in October last year.
‘It was nice to get some early momentum with the birdies, because I like this course. It suits my game and the greens are fantastic; they roll really well. The weather was nice and warm, but the wind came up, which made it slightly tougher off the tees.’
The Wanna Be A Champion player changed to a claw grip about a month ago and believes that made the difference between an over- and under-par round
‘I think the biggest difference was on the greens,’ Garcia said. ‘I had only 29 putts today and my average is around 33, so it’s really good to see movement in a positive direction. I was able to start the putts on line and on greens like these, they are going to drop if you start them online.
‘I really wasn’t keen to change to the claw grip because I thought it was a cop out, but it definitely has given me more confidence on the greens. I started using it before we went to Morocco but it didn’t work, so I just practiced pace putts here in the practice round, and that’s made the difference.’
Bregman reversed a bogey start with birdie at the third, and birdied nine to turn one under. The Johannesburg pro took care of a bogey at 10 with birdie at the par five 13th and obliterated a third bogey at 15 with a hat-trick of birdies over the finishing holes.
Bregman finished joint 55th and Garcia tied for 62nd at the Lalla Meryem Cup last week.
Like Garcia, the four-time Sunshine Ladies Tour champion was pleased to make such a promising start in China. ‘Well, it wasn’t what we hoped for, but at least we both made a cheque,’ Bregman joked.
‘This is a much better start for both of us. I was able to cancel the bogey at the first quickly and that got me going. I drove the ball well and I hit the putter well, too. I had a three-putt bogey at 15, but holed a six-footer for birdie at 16 to cancel it. Then I hit it to an inch at 17 and made the birdie putt and knocked in an 18-footer for birdie at 18.
‘I love this course. It’s absolutely pristine and the greens roll quick and true. It’s great to start strong and now we will just see where I go from here.’
The final South African in this week’s line up in Shanghai, LET winner Connie Chen, carded a two over 74 to tie for 39th.
Picture of Garcia courtesy of the Sunshine Ladies Tour