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Sergio Garcia enjoying being the host

Spain’s world number five Sergio Garcia and seventh ranked Camilo Villegas contest the Castello Masters title this week but that has not stopped the Spaniard inviting his arch rival to be his house guest.

The pair went head to head only three weeks ago when Colombian Villegas came out tops in a playoff for the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour.

They are also best friends and Garcia had no hesitation asking Villegas to join him at his home for the inaugural Castello Masters which the Spanish Ryder Cup player is hosting, starting from Thursday near Valencia.

“Camilo is a great friend and I was very happy when he agreed to play this week,” Garcia said on Tuesday after practising with the Colombian.

Villegas, who made his mark in Europe when he shot a 65 in bad weather in the British Open second round at Royal Birkdale in July, is just one top performer Garcia has persuaded to play at a course he has revamped with his father and coach Victor, a European Seniors Tour player.

Europe’s 2007 number one Justin Rose of Britain, world number 10 Henrik Stenson of Sweden and another 2008 Ryder Cup player, Briton Paul Casey, also line up for the 2 million euros ($2.64 million) tournament which begins on Thursday.

In a bid to give his debut at event promotion the best possible start, Garcia has supervised everything to do with the tournament and made several changes to the Mediterraneo course.

“We’ve tried to make the course more competitive, lengthening a few tees, putting in two new lakes and more bunkering on the 10th,” Garcia said.

“This week I will be giving 120 per cent, not just off the course but on it as well.”

Jose Maria Olazabal held the old course record of 61 before it was revamped and the twice U.S. Masters champion is also in the field as he continues his rehabilitation following further disruption to his career through rheumatism in his back.

Olazabal, 42, returned to action after a three-month layoff at the Madrid Masters two weeks ago, in which he played all four rounds.

This week’s event is the final one to count for those players struggling to make the top 115 on Europe’s money-list which assures a playing card for next season.

None of Europe’s top three in the money-list, top man Robert Karlsson, second-placed Padraig Harrington and third-placed Lee Westwood feature in this week’s event and will scrap it out next week in the Volvo Masters at Valderrama.

“I didn’t consider changing my schedule,” Karlsson, now up to number six in the new world rankings, told Reuters. “I had a couple of little niggles going on (last week) and a week off to get fully fit for Valderrama is a better idea.”


October 23, 2008

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