Sergio Garcia (Getty Images)
Sergio Garcia is aware he faces a tough task if he wants to start his 2013 campaign with a victory at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
The 33 year old Spaniard makes his first appearance on this year’s Race to Dubai at the second leg of The European Tour’s Middle East swing, where he is one of 80 European Tour winners teeing up at Doha Golf Club.
“The competition is going to be great,” said Garcia. “I'm sure that the level of play will be great. There's a good, strong field this week.”
Garcia has reason to be optimistic, however. In his last six appearances in the event he has not been outside the top 25 and has amassed four top ten finishes during that time.
Despite that impressive record, the Ryder Cup star is keen to add a victory at a course he clearly enjoys playing.
“I guess it's been a nice place to start the year for me,” he added. “I haven't been able to win, but I had some good success here, a good amount of top ten finishes.
“I enjoy the course – it usually plays quite difficult, a little breezy, so it's a good week to start the year. Hopefully we'll get it going this year again.”
Garcia revealed that he has worked on “a little bit of everything” over his winter break, but is reluctant to burden himself with too much expectation for the year ahead after a turbulent few years.
Having started 2009 as the World Number Two, he suffered a dip in form and two years later was outside the game’s top 80, before winning back-to-back titles in Spain to reignite his career.
“We know that there are going to be good moments and bad moments,” he said. “The most important thing is to only give the bad moments the credit they deserve, try to learn from it, improve as the years go by and believe in yourself and be patient.
“Golf is the kind of sport that asks you to be very, very patient, just like in life. So I think that's the only thing you can do; try to play with the best attitude possible and be as patient as you can and wait for things to happen.
“Obviously I'm happy with the way things have been going the past couple years and I feel comfortable within myself, which is important. Then it's just a matter of trying the best you can out there and hopefully the best is pretty good. You're obviously going to keep trying but I feel pretty happy where I am.”
One player talking up Garcia’s chances this week is Open Champion Ernie Els – one of eight Major Champions in the field, who expects the Spaniard and another South African to be firmly in contention come Saturday afternoon.
“I think Louis [Oosthuizen] is probably the favorite this week, and Sergio,” said Els. “Sergio, last time he played, he won in Johor.
“This is one of the tougher courses on the Middle Eastern swing. This golf course always plays quite difficult - the wind blows a bit more here normally, so scoring can be difficult.”
Els and Garcia will also need to overcome an American challenge in Jason Dufner, who put a dent in the latter’s remarkable Ryder Cup foursomes record at Medinah when he combined with Zach Johnson on the second morning to beat Garcia and Nicolas Colsaerts 2 and 1.
While Garcia might have had the last laugh on that occasion, Dufner insists he is ready to challenge this week after acclimatising in Abu Dhabi last week, where a late rally helped him claim a top ten finish.
“Last week I played decent, had a good day on Sunday and moved up the board a little bit,” said Dufner. “I'm starting to get adjusted to the time change and feeling a little bit better.
“It’s a very good golf course. Good variety from tee-to-green, getting the ball close to hole locations might be a challenge, and I've heard the wind can be pretty tough this week.”