Spanish star Sergio Garcia is excited by his return to Asia and feels quietly confident he can add the SMBC Singapore Open title to his impressive list of successes on the continent when he makes his debut in the prestigious tournament this week.
The world number 15 will take on Major winners Adam Scott and Ernie Els, titleholder Younghan Song of Korea and top players from the Asian Tour and the Japan Golf Tour on the Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club from January 19 to 22. Scott is a tournament and course specialist having won the trophy three times.
The 51st edition of the storied SMBC Singapore Open will be jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Japan Golf Tour Organisation.
“I have always felt comfortable coming to Asia,” said the 37 year old Garcia. “I have done very well (for the) amount of tournaments I have played in. Always exciting to come here not only for us (players) but for the Asian people who do not get to see us that often.
“You always feel that there is a lot of good energy around. It is always exciting times,” added Garcia, a five-time winner on the Asian Tour.
Garcia, who won on the PGA Tour and represented Spain in the Olympics last year, prioritised trusting his ability as he seeks an early-season victory at the SMBC Singapore Open.
“(To win), I have to play well obviously,” said the recently engaged Garcia. “I think it is just a matter of being consistent, playing well, having a good solid week and believing in my ability throughout the whole week. Having trust in what I am doing. I will try and do that to the best of my ability, hopefully that will be enough to be number one (here). If somebody else is better, then I will just have to accept it.”
He added that he felt good after a number of practice sessions heading into the tournament.
“I had a nice little practice from New Year onwards,” he said. “Obviously, excited about starting the year here, (it is) definitely much warmer than in Europe at the moment. Hopefully I will have a good week, get some good vibrations for the year and, you know, get it going.”
He will have his first feel of the Serapong Course during the pro-am on Wednesday but revealed that he had some idea of what to expect having seen past Singapore Opens on television.
“It looks like a really pretty golf course with a lot of water and some exciting holes,” he said. “I am looking forward to seeing it tomorrow, get a good look at it, be as well prepared as possible for Thursday. And then have a solid week.”
The elite field was handed an added incentive on the eve of the tournament when it was announced that four players, up from two originally, will qualify for The 146th Open at Royal Birkdale.
Four players who finish in the top twelve and ties, who are not already exempt, will earn places in the field at Royal Birkdale, from July 20-23, 2017
Defending champion Song of Korea said that there was no pressure on him this week and he was a more “complete player” as a result of his victory in 2016.
“There is no pressure whatsover,” said Song, who edged then world number one Jordan Spieth by a shot to lift the trophy last year. “Just like last year, I will aim to make the cut and do the best I can (after that).
“I won the first tournament of the year (the SMBC Singapore Open) last year which led to more opportunities for me. Through those opportunities I gained more experience and developed into a more complete player.”
Song, who finished fourth in the 2016 Japan Golf Tour’s Order of Merit, said there were no guarantees about how he would perform this week.
“Golf is a very hard game. I will try my very best and (hopefully) a good result will come along. I expect it will be windy this week – I will focus on my short game and, of course, putting, which is important,” he said.
Singapore veteran Mardan Mamat said that he was looking at the SMBC Singapore Open as a launch pad for the season.
“This is my first tournament of the season and I just want to build up my confidence so that I can get back to the winning circle,” said the 49-year-old Mardan, who has won five times on the Asian Tour.
“We’ve several promising youngsters coming up and turning professional. Quincy Quek, Koh Dengshan, Johnson Poh and Choo Tze huang are among the names to look out for.”