Monday 18 December 2017

Garcia faces up to home truths

Sergio relishes Castellon return but says emotion hard to repeatSERGIO GARCIA is aiming to secure victory on his return to golf at the Castello Masters this week -- but admits it will struggle to be as emotionally charged as his success at the Castellon event two years ago.

Garcia is back after taking a two-month break and has targeted a return to the very top of the sport.

His first challenge is on his home course in Spain, and nothing would give Garcia such great pleasure than to win here again, with the first round getting under way this morning.

He said: "The first edition of the Castello Masters was a very emotional moment for me," he explained.

"Firstly, Seve (Ballesteros) had just been diagnosed (with a brain tumour). Secondly, we had been working for a long time to host a European Tour event in my home club.

"And thirdly, I won at home, in front of my family and friends and the people of Castellon, particularly the kids. It was a perfect and very special week.

"This year, the course is in top condition, I have never seen it as good. My father and the maintenance team have done a great job."

Garcia's recent problems pale in comparison to those of older compatriot Jose Maria Olazabal, who will attempt yet another comeback from the rheumatism and tendonitis that have plagued him on and off for 15 years.

The 44-year-old, who is favourite to succeed Colin Montgomerie as Ryder Cup captain, missed the cut in his only other tournament this year, July's French Open.

He was said to be "exhausted" after firing an opening-round 82 but bounced back with a 70.

The two-time Masters champion admitted his latest playing return could be even more of an ordeal.

"I've managed to make successful comebacks in the past, but it gets tougher as you get older," said Olazabal, who made an emotional appearance as a surprise fifth vice-captain at the Ryder Cup.

"Your physical condition is tougher to maintain, especially if -- like me -- you have gone almost three years without being able to exercise properly.

"It has been very frustrating not being able to play, not being able to practise and not feeling well. That hurts.

"But I've always been a positive person and I am already looking forward to getting myself fitter for next year."

Meanwhile, Ernie Els used a red-hot putter to come from three strokes behind with five holes remaining and win the end-of-season PGA Grand Slam of Golf by one shot in Bermuda.


The South African rattled up three consecutive birdies from the 14th on the way to a two-under-par 69 in difficult, blustery conditions at Port Royal Golf Course.

That gave Els a 36-hole total of five-under 137, one better than first-round leader David Toms of the United States who closed with a 71.

US Open champion, Ireland's Graeme McDowell, battled to a 73 to finish at three over, level with US PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer of Germany (71).

Els was tied for the lead with Toms after 15 holes and coolly rolled in a 35-foot birdie putt at the tricky par-three 16th to take command.

"That was probably the biggest putt of the week," said the smiling South African after parring 17 and 18 to clinch the winner's cheque for $600,000.

"For some reason I felt very comfortable over that putt. I was putting into the wind, so I could really hit it firm. I had a perfect line. Just one of those beautiful things, you know."

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