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Garcia aiming for repeat at Buick

As Sergio Garcia sets his sights on Tiger, he is thankful he's strong as a bull.

Garcia seeks his second straight Buick Classic title this week at the Westchester Country Club, which serves as a valuable tuneup for the U.S. Open but a stiff test the week before a major.

Ranked fifth in the world, Garcia has a goal of finishing atop the PGA Tour money list and Order of Merit on the European Tour. He also would like to catch world No. 1 Tiger Woods, who is not entered this week.

"Well, it's a pity," Garcia said. "You always want to play against him and try to beat him. It gets that much sweeter. But, you know, I am going to be playing, so that's what I care about."

Garcia doesn't mind that this event comes a week before the U.S. Open at nearby Bethpage State Park in Long Island, even though Westchester provides a physically demanding layout.

"Strong as bull," joked the 22-year-old Garcia, who missed a playoff by a shot here in 2000.

"It is a demanding golf course, and it probably takes something out of you. But then you have three days to rest and get back in shape, ready for the Open."

What makes Westchester good preparation for the Open is its tight fairways and small greens, which play extremely firm without rain, which is expected Wednesday and Thursday.

"It can wear you out a little because of how tough the course plays," Garcia said. "Depending also on the weather."

Another similarity to the Open are the winning scores at Westchester, a tight, 6,722-yard par-71 that often prevents players from reaching 10-under par. Last year, Garcia won with a 16-under 268, matching a record for the par-71 layout.

"I like to play tournaments where the winning score usually is between 10-under par and even par," Garcia said. "I think that those kind of tournaments are the ones that ask you for your best golf. It is not just like a putting contest or something like that."

Even tough Woods is not entered, several of the best players in the world are in the field, including reigning U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen of South Africa, who has not played on the PGA Tour since his runner-up finish to Woods at The Masters.

Joining the fourth-ranked Goosen is childhood friend Ernie Els, the only player in Buick Classic history to win the event in consecutive seasons, claiming the title in 1996 and 1997. He also has won a pair of U.S. Opens.

Eight of the top nine players in the World Golf Rankings will tee it up Thursday, including No. 2 Phil Mickelson, No. 6 David Toms, No. 7 David Duval, No. 8 Vijay Singh of Fiji and No. 9 Jim Furyk. Woods is the only one missing.

"Of course, because of him not playing, the field is not as good," Garcia said. "But it an still be a great field. It is just missing one player."


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