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Sergio Garcia looking for biggest ever year

Sergio Garcia, who celebrated his 26th birthday on Monday, has a feeling this could be the most successful year of his career.

Already bracketed as one of the best players not to have won a major, the richly-talented Spaniard believes he has matured as a golfer and is close to resolving his Achilles' heel of putting.

"I'm really looking forward to this year," he said during last week's Mercedes Championships at Kapalua's Plantation Course.

"If I can manage the short game, then it could be a huge year for me. My chipping has improved a lot over the last year, so that I have pretty much sorted out.

"The putting is the one thing that has been giving me a bit of a headache, but I feel like I'm finally getting over it.

"If my putting starts coming along and I'm feeling good about it, then I will feel really good going into the majors. If my putting game is on, I feel like I can do some damage there."

World number six Garcia, who burst on to the world scene by finishing runner-up to Tiger Woods in the 1999 U.S. PGA championship at Medinah, has not yet lived up to his undoubted potential.

A long hitter who is wonderfully creative around the greens, he has often been let down by his temperament as well as by his unpredictable putter.

However, the Spaniard is proud of a playing record that features six victories on the PGA Tour and the same number in Europe and has no problem facing persistent questions from the media about his major title drought.

"It doesn't really bother me," he said. "I've always said it: I just try to take the positive out of the majors.

"If I was 40 or 45, it would bother me, not because of you (the media) asking me, but because of me not having been able to win a major more than anything.

"Don't get me wrong, I try to win as many majors as I can. When I tee it up in a major, I try to win. I'm not thinking: 'Well, let's go for the next one, not this one.'

"But I'm not bothered about it. It's not a life-or-death situation."

Garcia, who finished sixth in the PGA Tour's season-opening event at Kapalua on Sunday after slipping to a final-round 75, believes his playing record stands up to criticism.

"I've had a good career. I'm almost 26 years old and pretty well-established in the top 10, with a lot of good victories around the world.

"It depends who you compare me with. If you compare me with Tiger, who is something out of the ordinary, of course my career doesn't seem that great.

"But if you compare me with the other 25-year-olds, 26-year-old players, I'm sure pretty much all of them would love to have a career like the one I have."

Garcia believes he has improved as a player over the last 12 months and likes the look of this year's major venue rota.

"It's going to be great coming back to Medinah (for the U.S. PGA championship in August)," he said.

"It's going to be quite an experience. And I'm looking forward to Winged Foot (for the U.S. Open in June). I've played it once, not in a tournament.

"I've always said that I really like the British (Open) and the (U.S.) Masters, but I feel like my game shapes up well for the U.S. Open. It's probably the major that I've been the most consistent on."

January 9, 2006


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