Pablo Larrazábal insists he doesn’t feel like the defending champion at this week’s BMW International Open – but he is ready to win.
The Spaniard beat compatriot Sergio Garcia in a play-off 12 months ago at Golfclub München Eichenried in Munich, but the event has switched to Golf Club Gut Lärchenhof in Cologne.
“I don't feel like the defending champion,” said Larrazábal, for whom victory last year was his second on The European Tour. “It’s the same event but different golf course - I will feel like the defending champion next year when we come back to Munich.”
For the 29 year old it was an important win, as it proved his Open de France success in 2008 was no fluke.
And although Larrazábal has not won again since, he feels his game is in good shape after top-ten finishes in Morocco and Spain this year.
“They always say the second victory is a lot tougher than the first one,” he added. “Winning your first year on tour is all about luck, and you don't know where you are, but you win.
“But the toughest one is the second one. It was a victory of the hard work I did for a year and a half before that. The hard work I did was the right way to go, and the victory I did for that hard work was something special. My game says to me that I'm ready to win.”
The win was all the more special for Larrazábal as he had to see off Garcia in a lengthy play-off.
“My brother played a lot of amateur golf with Sergio and I'm obviously three years younger than him, and I grew up watching him winning all of the tournaments he won as an amateur, and as a Spaniard - he was one of my heroes,” he added. “He is still one of my heroes and it was a pleasure to play against him in a play-off, and obviously more special to win it.”
Garcia may have missed out on winning 12 months ago, but the 32 year old feels his performance gave him the confidence to rediscover his best form.
Since then he has won back-to-back titles in his native Spain, and is yet to miss a cut in eight European Tour events this season, including three top-five finishes.
And the event holds special significance for Garcia, who won his second professional tournament on this course in 1999.
“I always look forward to playing the BMW International Open here in Germany where I've been fortunate enough to do really well, so hopefully we can have a decent week,” said The Ryder Cup star.
Of his win 13 years ago he added: “It's nice, but at the same time, I think I only remember two or three holes on the golf course. It's been a long time since I've come back to Cologne. It's always nice to come back to a place where you've done well and hopefully we'll be able to do well again.
“Last year was very nice for many reasons. Not only because I almost won the tournament, but it gave me the possibility to gain a lot of World Ranking points, to get into The British Open, which is my favourite tournament of the year; to get my year started and kind of get going. It gave me a lot of confidence going into the summer.
“That obviously helped me get my couple of wins towards the end of the summer. It was a great week, and hopefully I will be able to do something similar this week.”