McGowan leads in Castellon
Castellon - Injury troubled Briton Ross McGowan continued his liking for Spanish tournaments when his seven-under-par 64 earned a two-shot lead in Thursday's Castello Masters opening round.
An eagle-two and five birdies hauled McGowan past the early leader Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay and, later on, another Briton, Richard McEvoy. Tournament promoter Sergio Garcia is among the players three strokes off the lead in fourth place after a 67.
McGowan, 29, won the 2009 Madrid Masters but a nagging shoulder injury has blighted his career since.
Two weeks ago he contended strongly for the first time in more than 18 months - in the latest version of the Madrid Masters. He led after round one, but faded to 42nd place.
The ever-smiling Englishman is again on track for his second tour title.
"There's something about Spain I like," McGowan told reporters. "Probably because my shoulder enjoys some sun on it.
"This course suits me, too, because I don't have to hit many drivers. My shoulder doesn't like the strain. I've found plenty of uses for the four wedges in my bag, though."
Hosting Mediterraneo club member Garcia was the first to congratulate McGowan on his two at the course's hardest hole, the 17th.
"I caught a four-iron just right but disappointingly I didn't see it go in the hole," said the leader.
Englishman McEvoy's back nine to four-under-par enabled him to match Zanotti, who had set the pace in the morning with a run of five birdies from the 11th.
Garcia won this event three years ago on his way to becoming world No 2 at the end of the following year.
The Spaniard has been in a slump, though, for two years, so he was happy to finally master a tougher layout than the one in which he prevailed in 2008.
"The course is more difficult than in previous years," he said. "So I was pleased to be five-under on the back nine to get into contention."
Northern Irishman Michael Hoey collected six birdies in eight holes to climb to the top of the leaderboard in his first tournament since winning the elite Dunhill Links Championship. He then bogeyed 16 and double-bogeyed 17 before holing from 45ft off the green for a seventh birdie to share fourth place.
Leading first-round scores from the Castello Masters at the par-71 course on Thursday:
64 Ross McGowan (Britain) 64 66 Fabrizio Zanotti (Paraguay) 66
Richard McEvoy (Britain) 66 67 George Coetzee (South Africa) 67
Sergio Garcia (Spain) 67
Anthony Wall (Britain) 67
Michael Hoey (Britain) 67
Thongchai Jaidee (Thailand) 67
Danny Willett (Britain) 67
Gary Orr (Britain) 67 68 Robert Coles (Britain) 68
Marcel Siem (Germany) 68
Steven O'Hara (Britain) 68
Thomas Aiken (South Africa) 68
Mark Foster (Britain) 68
Niclas Fasth (Sweden) 68 69 Matteo Manassero (Italy) 69
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Spain) 69
James Kingston (South Africa) 69
Gregory Havret (France) 69
Maarten Lafeber (Netherlands) 69
Ricardo Gonzalez (Argentina) 69
Alexander Noren (Sweden) 69
Damien McGrane (Ireland) 69
Scott Strange (Australia) 69
Mark Brown (New Zealand) 69