Fire still burns for Garcia at Augusta

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Sergio Garcia may have got married and become a father since he fulfilled his lifelong ambition of slipping on a Green Jacket last season but there is no complacency from the Spaniard as he returns to the Masters Tournament.

Garcia beat Justin Rose on the first play-off hole at Augusta National to win a long-awaited first Major Championship and while the following 12 months may have been a roller coaster, there has been no let-up on the course.

He won the Andalucia Valderrama Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation en route to finishing fourth on the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex and has achieved two top tens so far in the World Golf Championships events in 2018.

As a 14-time European Tour winner, Garcia knows a thing or two about defending a title and while he admits it is different this week, he does not think that will prove a distraction as he aims to become just the fourth man to win back-to-back Masters.

“This is my first time defending a Major and a Green Jacket, so it’s new to me,” he said. “But I’ll try to go through the things that I know help me and hopefully get off to a good start, decent start, and really enjoy the week.

“It is a different feeling and it’s easy to come here and say: oh, yeah, I’m just treating it like any other tournament.

“The Majors are the Majors because of that, because they’re different. Augusta is even more different and more spectacular.

“So that’s the way you want to take it but when you go out there you know that it’s going to be a special week and this week for me it’s even more special because of being the defending champion.

“It’s just difficult to win. It doesn’t matter if it’s back‑to‑back or just one. So people don’t realise how difficult it is to win any tournament, and a Major is even tougher, and Augusta and the Masters, it’s even more difficult.

“It’s just not easy to do it one time, so imagine twice. And back‑to‑back. So it doesn’t mean that I’m not going to give it my best shot and I’m going to try as hard as I can but it’s not easy to do it.

I’m enjoying every minute of it and just hoping that I can go out there and play great again and have a chance of defending a Green Jacket – Sergio Garcia

“I’m enjoying every minute of it and just hoping that I can go out there and play great again and have a chance of defending a Green Jacket. It was fun to have it for a year, so I would like to extend that if possible.”

Garcia’s return to Augusta this week will be emotional for a number of reasons, not least because he will wear a green ribbon on his hat to pay tribute to friend and former Augusta member Rob Chapman, who died from a brain aneurysm in July.

“He and Nick Evans were the first two members that we built a relationship with and it was very sad to hear what happened to him,” he added. “I’m so glad that I got to win last year and not this year, because he was able to see it.

“I remember the hug we had just as we finished at the 18th hole and he was right behind me at the prize giving and it was very special. He wanted me to win so badly and fortunately at least he got to see that.”

Garcia will also have to return the Green Jacket to the Champions Locker Room and joked that if he had to recount everywhere he had taken it in the last year, he would miss his tee time on Thursday.

“We went to New York for the morning shows, so I’ve had the jacket for a day and a half and I kind of look at my right arm and there’s two big grease stains on it,” he explained.

“And I’m thinking, my God, I’ve had the jacket for a day and a half and I already have two massive stains on it. What am I going to do?

“So we were trying to clean it up as best we can and then we took it to a dry cleaner and they did a great job.”