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Golf News: - Posted 3rd June 1998

Spanish teenager cruises to second round

Muirfield, Scotland - Spain's teenage sensation Sergio Garcia continued his impressive showing in the Amateur Championship at Muirfield on Wednesday when cruising into the last 32.

The 18-year-old, widely regarded as natural successor to Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal, had little difficulty in dispatching Frenchman Sebastien Branger 7 and 5, covering the 13 holes in three under par in a one-sided contest.

Two ahead after eight holes, the reigning British Boys champion quickly powered into overdrive, taking five successive holes from the ninth with three pars and a birdie to close out the match.

"I was pretty happy with the way I played but if there was one concern, I would say it was my putting because I three-putted twice in the opening six holes," said Garcia.

"To be honest, the greens are slower than I thought they would be. They are certainly slower than they look, but that is not a criticism because the course overall is in fantastic condition."

Garcia, the youngest player to compete in the modern-day Open Championship when he played at Royal Lytham in 1996 aged 16, revealed he would only play this year at Royal Birkdale if he qualified by winning this week.

"I have a busy schedule coming up, playing in two Nike Tour events in America then probably the Irish Open and Loch Lomond World Invitational, so I don't think I would try to qualify this year," he said.

While Garcia moved smoothly through, the first hurdle proved insurmountable for North Hants 17-year-old Justin Rose, the youngest player to compete in the Walker Cup last August.

Rose was beaten on the last green by James Bunch, a 23-year-old Scot from St Andrews who studies at North Carolina State University.

The former Scottish Boys Strokeplay champion held the upper hand for most of the way but looked to have let his chance slip when he found a bunker off the tee at the 14th hole and fell one behind for the first time.

But he bounced back with a birdie at the next hole, took the 16th with a par as Rose missed the green and held his nerve over the closing two holes for victory.

"It didn't really bother me when I saw the draw. I just made sure I came out and played my own game," said Bunch.

Elsewhere, there was a safe passage for leading qualifier Mark Hilton of the East Sussex National club, who beat Hinckley's Jason Powell by two holes.

But second best qualifier Bryan Omelia of Dublin had to go to the first extra hole to see off the dogged challenge of American Steve Sheehan, brother of former US Women's Open champion Patty Sheehan.