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Garcia begins European campaign this week

Sergio Garcia's New Year's wish to top the money list on both the U.S. and European PGA tours in 2002 goes into second gear Thursday when he takes on a strong field in the European tour's Johnnie Walker Classic.

The Classic, to be played on the par-72 Lake Karrinyup Country Club course, also has other world top-10 players Ernie Els and Retief Goosen of South Africa in the field as well as Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, Paul McGinley, Pierre Fulke and Nick Faldo.

The 1.25 million US dlr tournament is part of three tours and its 156-man field is made up of 60 players from the European tour, 60 from the Australasian, 28 from the Asian PGA and eight invitees.

Goosen, last year's U.S. Open champion, said Tuesday he thinks Garcia will have to play his best in major events if he hopes to accomplish the feat.

"I think it can be done, but obviously he's going to have to play really well in the world events and the majors," Goosen said. "Those are the ones that count towards both Orders of Merit.

"I think if he wants to win the European Order of Merit he needs to win those events to stay on top."

Garcia is in second place on the U.S. PGA tour money list after winning the season-opening Mercedes Championship in a playoff, taking home 736,000 US dlrs. The winner's check this week at the Johnnie Walker is 225,000 US dlrs, which could put the Spaniard among the leaders - if not in the lead - on the European tour.

The 22-year-old Garcia spent last weekend watching tennis at the Australian Open in Melbourne and headed to Perth on Australia's west coast in time for a few practice rounds at Lake Karrinyup, where Gary Player of South Africa, who won the 1974 Australian Open there - his record seventh Australian Open title - still holds the course record of 9-under 63.

Garcia was sixth on last year's U.S. tour, winning 2.9 million US dlrs with two wins, two seconds and eight top-10 finishes.

"I strongly feel I am closer to Tiger Woods than before," Garcia said at the beginning of the year. "I learned a lot through last year and know you cannot get close unless you give as much as you can in every tournament."

Garcia won't have to worry about Woods in the Classic - he's not entered despite being the last player to win the tournament. The event was shifted from Asia to Australia at the end of 2000 and no tournament was played last year.

In November 2000, Woods won his second Johnnie Walker Classic title and 10th title of the year, shooting his third consecutive 7-under 65 in the fourth round at the Alpine Golf Club outside of Bangkok, Thailand. Garcia finished 19th.

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