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GARCIA UNDER NO PRESSURE TO DEFEND TITLE IN DUBAI

DUBAI, Jan 24 — All eyes will be on Sergio Garcia, but the defending champion feels under no added pressure as he aims to replicate last year’s performance at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club this week.

The affable Spaniard eclipsed a star-studded field to a complete wire-to-wire victory at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in early February last year, and he then claimed his major maiden title at Augusta, culminating a “crazy 2017” with the European Tour Golfer of the Year honours.

Coming off a victory at last week’s Singapore Open, Garcia says the goals for the week remains the same. “Try to put myself in winning situations like I did last week and try to cope with them the best way possible and give myself chances at winning tournaments.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be one, six, two, three or what’s going to happen but at least if I feel like I’m getting better, like I keep putting myself in those situations, that’s already an achievement and then you try to take as many as you can.

“For me last year, winning here against Henrik (Stenson) with Henrik playing well and myself playing well, and kind of keeping him off my back throughout the whole day, I think that was the most important thing mentally.

“That helped me a lot. It gave me more confidence as I went on through the year.”

When Garcia won here and then went on to win the Masters, he became the second player in as many seasons to achieve the feat after Danny Willett did it in 2016.

Garcia dismissed that link as pure coincidence but Ernie Els, a three-time winner here and two-time runner-up at Augusta National Golf Club, is not so sure.

“It’s definitely a drawer’s golf course,” he said. “It’s where my eye found back in the day I could move it easily right-to-left and obviously Augusta is very similar.

“It’s very early in the season to compare the winner here to having a chance to win Augusta but there’s got to be something there now, with the last two winners winning Augusta.

“I think that’s why the field’s so strong, too. It’s a wonderful field here. All the way from the US and South Africa, all the way around the world, this is really one of the strongest fields running into Augusta.

“Obviously it says a lot for the tournament. It gives the tournament a lot of credibility when Augusta winners come out of here.”

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