Jimenez and Garcia sparkle in Ryder Cup warm-up

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The Independent Online

Miguel Angel Jimenez insisted he would not allow thoughts of the Ryder Cup get in the way of him winning his fifth tournament this year with the Omega European Masters.

The Spaniard romped to victory in the BMW International Open last Sunday and kept that momentum going to card a faultless opening round six-under-par 65 at the spectacular Crans-sur-Sierre course in the mountains of Switzerland to lead going into day two.

The 40-year-old man from Malaga illustrated just how crucial he is to Europe's bid to retain the Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills next month by establishing an early four-shot advantage over reigning champion Ernie Els, who was attempting to make history.

The South African has showed so many times in the past that he should never be written off, especially at this early stage, and Jimenez cannot afford to look ahead.

"I don't care at the moment even for the Ryder Cup," he said.

"I care for the Omega European Masters as we are here.

"I am enjoying myself here and I don't want to be looking to the future.

"I am relaxed and strong and if you look ahead then it can all go wrong.

"I am not looking to see what those around me are doing either.

"I am just concentrating on this tournament and that's the way I'll win it.

"I try and play hole by hole and shot by shot.

"I want to win and I feel that everything is right at the moment."

Big pre-tournament favourite Els was bidding to emulate the feat of Seve Ballesteros over a quarter of a century ago when he defended the European Masters crown.

But the 'Big Easy' took time to get going and found himself two-over-par at the turn having started the back nine, bogeying the par-fourth 10th and par-three 13th.

Els though turned things round quickly at the turn and birdied four of the next seven and despite bogeying the eighth, he again responded with another birdie to finish his round.

But while Jimenez and fellow countryman Sergio Garcia might be Ryder Cup team-mates, they could be rivals for glory this week after the talented Garcia thrilled the crowd on his way to a five-under-par 66 to sit just a shot behind.

The 24-year-old from Castellon enjoyed the afternoon sunshine grabbing seven birdies - and did not let two bogies and a few wayward moments trouble him too much.

Garcia is looking ahead to the showdown with Hal Sutton's men in Detroit and is hoping Jimenez can keep his magic flowing until then.

Garcia, who has opted to rest next week and miss out on the German Masters, insisted: "He is playing well and looking forward to playing at the Ryder Cup and hopefully he will keep playing like that.

"Hopefully he will take a nice rest and and get ready for it.

"The Ryder Cup takes a lot out of you and you don't want to be tired.

"When you are in contention it takes it out of you - if you keep on drinking the bottle will go empty.

"But there is no doubt that he is playing some great golf and it's good to see that.

"Some people don't give him the credit but we all know how good a player he is."

Garcia joined Frenchman Marc Farry on five-under-par and they shared second place with Swede Peter Hedblom and later in the day England's Peter Baker.