PULA, Mallorca, Spain, Oct 25 (Reuters) South African Andrew McLardy took steps to benefit from a second chance to make next week's big-money Volvo Masters by taking an early share of the lead in today's Mallorca Classic first round.
McLardy's four-under 66 was soon matched by Ireland's Gary Murphy with the pair a stroke ahead of Britons Graeme Storm and James Hepworth plus Swede Joakim Backstrom.
The tournament favourite, Spaniard Sergio Garcia, was a further shot back before play had to be suspended just before 1730 ist due to lightning on the course.
While Murphy will have to vault 25 places to make the elite lineup at Valderrama next week, his co-leader McLardy lies 62nd on the European Tour money-list, only two spots away from the season-ending finale in Spain.
The 33-year-old Zimbabwe-born McLardy, with two second places this season and four in all, welcomed his good start as he produced a flawless round.
''This is my 'Mulligan','' McLardy told Reuters, ''because I should have sealed my Volvo Masters place last week in Portugal.
''I only needed 25th place but shot a 76 in the final round and fell away. It's a second bite of the cherry.
''Today I started hitting the ball close, that gave me confidence and then I started putting well.'' Murphy, too, had a faultless card. The Irishman, though, needs to surge from 85th place on the money-list to make next week's finale.
Garcia, looking to go one better than last year's second place, admitted to rustiness caused by a five-week layoff and took nearly nine holes to find his range.
He picked out his six-iron tee-shot on the 18th, his ninth hole, for cranking up his game.
''I was swinging too narrow but after 18 I felt like I had a bit more width and rhythm,'' Garcia, who added three birdies in seven holes after the turn, told reporters.
''Unfortunately, I had three really good putts that didn't go in.'' REUTERS BJR KP1906