European PGA Tour

Pepperell tops crowded leaderboard in Spain

Girona, Spain ( - Eddie Pepperell carded a 4-under 68 on Thursday to grab the early at the Open de Espana.

Pepperell, who is winless on the European Tour, has missed the cut in seven of his 10 starts this season, and he hasn't had a top-10 finish since last year's BMW PGA Championship.

Spaniards Sergio Garcia, Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Miguel Angel Jimenez all opened with 3-under 69s. They were joined in second place by Peter Uihlein, Jose-Filipe Lima, Richie Ramsay, Thomas Pieters and Robert-Jan Derksen.

Paul Lawrie headlines a group of eight more players tied for 10th place at minus-2 on the Stadium Course at PGA Golf de Catalunya.

Defending champion Raphael Jacquelin struggled to a 1-over 73, which left him tied for 49th place.

Pepperell stumbled out of the gate with a bogey on the first. He got that shot back with a birdie on No. 4. Pepperell, who has just two career top-10 finishes on the European Tour, also birdied the sixth to get into red figures.

After six straight pars from the seventh, Pepperell converted another birdie chance on the 13th. He grabbed a share of the lead with a birdie on the par-5 15th.

Pepperell broke free from the logjam atop the leaderboard with a birdie on the 17th. He parred the last to remain alone in the lead.

"Seemingly it's come out of nowhere looking at my results, but it's very similar to last year," said Pepperell, who broke 70 for the first time since the second round of the Tshwane Open and it was his fourth round in the 60s all year. "This time last year I started working with Mike Walker, who also coaches Lee Westwood, and he made a big difference instantly. Then I went and did a couple of my own things, which was a bit silly and cost me a bit of time this year, but I feel like I am back on the straight and narrow."

Garcia played the back nine first and posted back-to-back birdies at 12 and 13. After dropping a shot on the 14th, he bounced back with an eagle on the 15th.

The 2002 champion tripped to another bogey at the 18th. Around the turn, he carded eight pars and a lone birdie on the par-5 third.

Cabrera-Bello birdied the first to open his round. He followed birdies at six and seven with bogeys on eight and nine. Cabrera-Bello birdied three of four holes from the 12th to soar to minus-4, but he faltered to a bogey on the 16th to end one back.

Jimenez had a bogey-free round with two birdies on the front nine and one birdie on the back nine.

Uihlein mixed four birdies, three bogeys and an eagle in his round of 69. Like Jimenez, Lima had a bogey-free round with three birdies. Ramsay birdied the first three holes, then ran off 11 pars in a row. After a birdie on 15, Ramsay dropped a shot on the 17th.

Pieters had two birdies and a double-bogey on the front nine. After back-to- back birdies at 13 and 14, Pieters made eagle on the 15th. He gave one stroke back as he bogeyed the 16th.

Derksen had two birdies and a hole-in-one at the fifth on the front nine to go with a bogey at the ninth. He dropped another shot on the 13th, then birdied the 15th to post minus-3.

NOTES: Pepperell finished 76th in the Race to Dubai in his rookie season last year ... Alvaro Quiros was the last Spaniard to win this title, and he did so in 2010.

05/15 15:47:37 ET

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