DOHA (AFP) – Spanish star Sergio Garcia will aim to become the first player to win back-to-back titles in Doha when the US$2.5 million (2.1million euros) Qatar Masters begins at the wind-battered Doha Golf Club on Wednesday.
The 35-year-old took the Mother of Pearl trophy last year following a thrilling playoff against Swede Mikko Ilonen, and the Spaniard made no secret of his ambition to do an encore in what is his first tournament of the year.
“I came close to winning a few times, so it was nice to get over the line last year,” Garcia said.
“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.
“I want to play as well as I can and put up a good defence of my title,” added Garcia, who will play the first two rounds in an all-star group with Henrik Stenson and Ernie Els.
Garcia is playing in the tournament for the 10th time, having made his debut at the age of 19 in 1999.
From 2007 onwards, he has played in every edition of the event, which he considers one of his favourites.
“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.
“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.”
The Spaniard, however, will face a tough challenge from a host of stars.
“This year it’s a really strong field with players like Henrik [Stenson] and Justin [Rose], who have been among the world’s best players in recent years.
“They’ll obviously be among the players to watch out for. Henrik has won the tournament before and both guys finished last year really well, while there are many other players who can win this tournament.”