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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Omega Dubai Desert Classic: Sergio Garcia returns to venue that kick-started special 2017 season

Months after victory in the UAE, the Spaniard won his first major title at the US Masters.

Sergio Garcia alongside the Omega Dubai Desert Classic trophy he won last year. David Cannon / Getty Images
Sergio Garcia alongside the Omega Dubai Desert Classic trophy he won last year. David Cannon / Getty Images

Sergio Garcia won in Dubai last year to set in motion a somewhat special year.

“Yeah, I think it was decent,” he said with a smile on Wednesday, upon his return to the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

Decent rather underplays it. Twelve months ago, Garcia went wire-to-wire at Emirates Golf Club to lift the Dallah Trophy. On the Sunday, he held off Henrik Stenson, then the world No 4 and a former Dubai champion, to win by three shots and claim a first European Tour victory in three years. The drought had spanned 40 tournaments.

Within a couple of months, another barren spell met its conclusion. It had lasted almost twice as long. In April, Garcia won the Masters to finally land that elusive big one. It was his 74th attempt at a major.

In part, he traces the Augusta triumph back to Dubai.

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“For me last year, winning here against Henrik, with Henrik playing well, and myself playing well, and keeping him off my back throughout the whole day, that was the most important thing mentally,” Garcia said. “That helped me a lot. It gave me more confidence as I went on through the year."

Garcia’s memorable 2017 – he got married and his wife, Angela, is expecting their first child – has continued through New Year. On Sunday, the Spaniard won in Singapore. However, his recent success hasn't altered his outlook.

“The goals are still the same,” Garcia said. “Obviously try to put myself in winning situations like I did last week and try to cope with them the best way possible and give myself chances at winning tournaments.

“I don't know if it's going to be one, six, two, three [tournament wins] or what's going to happen, but at least if I feel like I'm getting better, like I keep putting myself in those situations. That's already an achievement. And then you try to take as many as you can.”

He will have a few trying to stop him this season. Jon Rahm is one, a fellow Spaniard who won in America on Sunday to move to world No 2, aged 23.

“We can all see he’s a great player,” Garcia said.

Another could be Tiger Woods, his old sparring partner. The 14-time major champion contests the Farmers Insurance Open this week, his first official start on the PGA Tour since the same event last year. Woods is making his comeback from an injury that forced him to withdraw mid-tournament in Dubai last year. It precipitated a fourth back surgery.

Back again, apparently he looks sharp. Garcia sounded a note of caution, though.

“It's going to be interesting to see,” he said. “In my opinion, it's a big question mark to see how he's going to be able to do physically. He looked pretty good at the Hero Challenge. But he has looked good at the Hero Challenge [before], and then hasn't lasted too long.

“So hopefully he's able to get in a bit of a rhythm when it comes down to playing tournaments. But nobody knows. So we'll see.”

Asked if the game still needs Woods, Garcia replied: “Of course we need him. He's done so much for the game. If he's not there, will the game of golf fall apart? I don't think so.

"The more big-time players we have on tour, the better it is for the game globally and he's obviously one of those. Like I always say: the more sugar, the sweeter.”