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Garcia Sparkles in First Pro Start

April 22, 1999

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) _ Sergio Garcia made a sparkling start in his pro debut Thursday, birdieing three of the first four holes to briefly lead the Spanish Peugeot Open.

At the end of a hectic day, the 19-year-old Spaniard, top amateur at the Masters earlier this month, had a 5-under-par 67 to sit two strokes behind the five leaders.

``It’s been a very good day,″ Garcia said. ``I played some great golf, and if I had been a little bit more lucky on the greens it could have been much lower.″

Fellow Spaniards Ignacio Garrido and Juan Carlos Aguero, Sweden’s Max Anglert, and England’s Jamie Spence and Anthony Wall all had 65s.

Alberto Binaghi of Italy, Jarmo Sandelin of Sweden and Paul Lawrie of Scotland were tied for sixth place with 66s on the 6,639-yard El Prat course.

Last year’s winner, Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn, did not play because of a neck injury.

Jose Maria Olazabal, in his first tournament since winning the Masters, shot a 72.

His first shot hit a tree 100 yards off the tee and came straight down. He recovered to go 3 under after eight holes, but he then had four bogeys and had to birdie the final hole for par.

The Peugeot Open is a perfect place for Garcia to make his pro debut. He set the European record last year in this tournament with the lowest score by an amateur, an 11-under 277.

Nick Faldo, struggling on the U.S. tour, managed a par 70 in the opening round, while Seve Ballesteros, who played with knee problems, shot a 73.

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