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Top five tee up at Byron Nelson Classic

If Sergio Garcia were searching for an opportunity to rebound following his collapse last week at the Wachovia he could find no better place than the Byron Nelson championships beginning on Thursday in Irving, Texas.

The Byron Nelson holds fond memories for Garcia, who made his PGA Tour debut with a third-place finish there in 1999 and captured the title last year by beating Dudley Hart and Robert Damron in a playoff.

But defending the title will not be easy for the 25-year-old Spaniard, with the world's top five players, led by Tiger Woods, also making the trip to the TPC Four Seasons Resort, Las Colinas.

For just the third time this season the world's top five will tee off at the same event, Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson, who all played at the Wachovia last week, joined by South African globetrotters Ernie Els and Retief Goosen.

Singh (2003), Woods (1997), Mickelson (1996) and Els (1995) all have a Byron Nelson title on their resumes.

"I'm sure that everybody's mental attitude is that it's a great event to win," said Goosen, the two-times U.S. Open champion who is playing in the event for the first time.

"But I don't think it's sort of exactly the same feel as a major event."

After losing in a playoff to Singh on Sunday at Wachovia, Garcia moved up one in the rankings to number eight but that will be a small consolation.

By the end it was Singh's signature on the $1 million winner's cheque and Garcia's name in the record books as he joined Greg Norman, Bobby Cruickshank, Gay Brewer and Hal Sutton as the only players to lose a PGA Tour event after taking a six-shot lead into the final round.

Although he says he is no longer worrying about the number one ranking, Singh can reclaim top spot from Woods with victory in Texas, or even with a second or this place as long as Woods fails to feature at the top of the leaderboard.

"I've done away with trying to be number one," said Singh. "I mean, it seems like I've got to win five times to get up there.

"I totally forgot about that. That does not cross my mind any more. I just want to go out there and win golf tournaments."

Singh, Woods, Mickelson and Els all have three wins this season but it is the Fijian who is in form, winning two of the last three PGA events, the Wachovia and Houston Open.

While Singh was piling up titles, Woods and Mickelson took time off following the U.S. Masters, returning to action last week at the Wachovia.

Still savouring his fourth Masters triumph, Woods struggled to shake the rust off his game last week at Quail Hollow and was never a factor, finishing in a tie for 11th.

Mickelson also spent much of the tournament fighting for form but a final-round 66 that vaulted him into a tie for seventh should provide some momentum.

Els will be playing his first PGA Tour event since slumping to 47th place at the Masters but the big South African has not been idle, rebounding from Augusta in style with a 13-stroke victory at the Asian Open in China.

"Augusta was Augusta and what happened that week is buried and gone, so I'm going back to America not dwelling on that," Els told reporters.

 

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