Sergio Garcia dedicated an encouraging start in his Ryder Cup warm-up event to Celia Barquin Arozamena, the promising young Spanish golfer who was murdered on a golf course in the United States on Monday.
Garcia carded seven birdies and two bogeys in an opening 66 in the Portugal Masters in Vilamoura to end the day three shots behind Australia’s Lucas Herbert, who returned a flawless 63.
The former Masters champion said on social media earlier this week he had been “heartbroken” by the shocking news about 22-year-old European Ladies’ Amateur Champion Barquin, who was found dead on a course in Iowa.
The pair had met in the past and Garcia told Sky Sports: “It was nice to shoot a nice score and dedicate that a little bit to Celia after what happened earlier in the week. I was wearing black for that, too.”
Garcia had not competed since the middle of August after failing to qualify for the Fed Ex Cup play-offs on the PGA Tour, although that did not stop European captain Thomas Bjorn handing the 38-year-old a wild card for next week’s Ryder Cup.
You are obviously a bit rusty so there are little things you have to work with in your mind,” Garcia added. “The important thing today was that I stayed patient and calm. Even when I missed some birdie putts early on, I kept at it.
“[The Ryder Cup] is special. There’s nothing like it. Winning it is even better. But, win or lose, to have the possibility of being part of a Ryder Cup team, playing in your colours and playing with some amazing friends, there is no other tournament like it. That’s one of the reasons I love it.”
Herbert carded an eagle and six birdies to finish a shot ahead of Ireland’s Shane Lowry and the English duo of Eddie Pepperell and Matt Wallace, with China’s Li Haotong a shot further back.
Wallace was overlooked for a Ryder Cup wild card despite three victories this season.