Sergio Garcia is determined to retain a title for the first time in his career at this week’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, which tees at Doha Golf Club off on Wednesday.
World No. 2 Henrik Stenson – playing the tournament for a 15th straight year – is the top-ranked player in the 126-man field, while Justin Rose is also among three of the world’s six in Doha, having leapfrogged Garcia to become World No. 5 on Monday.
Four-time Major winner Ernie Els and 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel are among the other big names in the tournament’s 18th edition, while Gary Stal will also be in the spotlight after his sensational come-from-behind victory in Abu Dhabi, where the young Frenchman outlasted Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer on Sunday.
However, Garcia will be the man to beat in Doha, where he has posted top-10 finishes in his last four appearances and six of his last seven.
The 11-time European Tour winner finished seventh in 2008 and 2009, ninth in 2011, fifth in 2012 and was runner-up to Chris Wood in 2013 before finally lifting the Mother of Pearl Trophy last January after an epic playoff victory over Finland’s Mikko Ilonen.
The 35-year-old Spaniard is now bidding to become the first player to win back-to-back titles at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and retain a title for the first time in his illustrious career.
“I want to play as well as I can and put up a good defence of my title,” said Garcia, who will play the first two rounds in an all-star group with Stenson and Els.
“I came close to winning a few times, so it was nice to get over the line last year. I played really well on the last day to get into the playoff, then had to play really well all over again to beat Mikko. So I have some good memories and hopefully they can inspire me to have another successful week.”
With Commercial Bank marking its 10th straight year as title sponsor, Garcia is also featuring in the tournament for the 10th time, having made his debut as a 19-year-old in 1999 and competed every year from 2007.
“I’ve started my season in Qatar for the last few years, and I always enjoy coming back. I just feel very comfortable here,” Garcia said. “The weather’s usually great, although it’s a bit breezy today. But it’s meant to warm up later in the week, so I’m looking forward to playing in my short sleeves with the sun on my back and hopefully a smile on my face.”
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