Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 1 April 2020

Sergio Garcia: 'Ryder Cup is my favourite week of the year...I want to make sure I’m at Whistling Straits'

Spanish golfer is the tournament's all-time points-scorer and is determined to extend his record in Wisconsin

Sergio Garcia is aiming to participate in his 10th Ryder Cup later this year. Getty Images
Sergio Garcia is aiming to participate in his 10th Ryder Cup later this year. Getty Images

It’s a Ryder Cup year, and Sergio Garcia can’t help smiling at the thought.

“Love those years,” the competition’s all-time leading points scorer tells The National ahead of his 2020 season bow next week in Abu Dhabi. “I love them all, but obviously those years I love them even more.

“And I want to play well; I want to make that team. I love being part of the Ryder Cup and I want to make sure that I’m at Whistling Straits in September.”

Make Wisconsin, and it will be Garcia’s 10th appearance in the biennial clash with the United States. His commitment to the cause is clear: the Spaniard has sat out one since his debut 21 years ago, when aged 19 he became the youngest player to ever contest the cup.

Despite missing Celtic Manor in 2010, once Garcia’s game deserted him and demanded a self-imposed break, no other player has accumulated more points. His singles victory against Rickie Fowler in France in 2018 carried Garcia’s record to 22-12-7, taking him to 25.5 points overall and passing the previous mark long held by Nick Faldo.

Patently, Garcia is built for the battle.

“It’s my favourite week of the year, for several reasons,” he says. “It’s totally different to anything else we play. Every week we’re trying hard, we have our team and our family, but it’s the only week where you actually have 11 guys that you’re usually playing against cheering for you as hard as they can. And you’re cheering for them as hard as you can.

“I’ve made many great friends because of Ryder Cups; guys that I was close to, but after playing Ryder Cups together we’ve become even closer.”

Some will be alongside Garcia later this year should he make Padraig Harrington’s team for Europe’s title defence. Some have made way for the likes of Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood, who headline a new wave of talented and tenacious Europeans.

However, with plenty to play out from Abu Dhabi next week to September in Wisconsin – the points process began last September – Garcia knows there’s little point predicting now the make-up of the side. One crucial ingredient, though, will stay constant.

“The best thing about it, at the end of the day, no matter who comes in or out, the atmosphere in our team is always amazing,” he says. “And that’s something you can’t buy. That’s something that’s in our DNA, and that’s a huge plus.

“You can’t make it. It has to be there, and I’m sure that will be there when we get to Whistling Straits. And hopefully it’ll help Europe win the cup again.”

Most probably, Europe will have to rely heavily on that camaraderie, when they enter the lion’s den, against what is sure to feel a determined American side after their bruising 17.5-10.5 defeat last time out.

“For sure, it’s going to be tough there,” Garcia says. “Because we just won it again and we’ve been doing really well the last eight or 11 Ryder Cups. So the people there are going to be very excited to try and get it back. Our job is to prevent that from happening."

Tipped for a captaincy role in Ireland in 2026 – Garcia turned 40 on Thursday and would be 46 by then – the Ryder Cup stalwart says he prefers instead to play for as long as possible, beginning with Whistling Straits.

Team Europe after beating the United States 17.5-10.5 in France to win the Ryder Cup in 2018. PA
Team Europe after beating the United States 17.5-10.5 in France to win the Ryder Cup in 2018. PA

A decent start at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA, from next Thursday onwards, would certainly set him up well. Garcia makes his return to the tournament for the first time in six years, a decision coaxed by its graduation last year to the European Tour’s Rolex Series.

Abu Dhabi boasts plenty of world ranking points – another formidable field is headlined by world No 1 Brooks Koepka – and therefore offers the opportunity to jump ahead in the Ryder Cup race, too.

“It was already a great start to the year, but now it makes it even better,” says Garcia, who finished tied-3rd on the tournament’s debut in 2006. “The field’s great. It’s going to be a lot of world rankings points, which makes it even more challenging.

“I’m really, really excited to be back and give it my best. Hopefully I can top that first time I was here, when I was close to winning it.

“It’s just a matter of having a week where things go the way you want it and you get on a good roll and give yourself a chance. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Updated: January 9, 2020 03:35 PM

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