Sergio Garcia eyes even better year after breakthrough 2017
Spaniard wants to build on breakthrough 2017 US Masters triumph
Sergio Garcia is unlikely to forget 2017 in a hurry.
For a long time, there was a niggling worry that the immense promise he showed as a teenager would never be fully realised, having finished second at four Majors previously.
The fear proved unfounded.
Last April, the Spaniard defeated Englishman Justin Rose in a US Masters play-off to land his first Major.
He would end the year with three triumphs, the others being the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and Andalucia Valderrama Masters, to take his professional win tally to 32.
Winning the 2017 European Tour Golfer of the Year award was the icing on the cake.
The 38-year-old is hoping for a repeat of his stunning 2017, if not better, although he is not about to put more unnecessary pressure on himself.
It’s a Ryder Cup year and it’s always exciting, it’s going to be great.World No. 10 Sergio Garcia
Said Garcia at a media conference for the SMBC Singapore Open yesterday: "Every year you want to perform well, every year you want to play well, so it doesn't matter what you do.
"I just want to hopefully stay healthy and keep improving in all aspects of the game.
"I'm putting myself in situations to win tournaments, like last year, and situations to win Majors, and see if I can pull another one like I did last year in April. So, it should be good fun."
"You always have four Majors every year, they're all special no matter how you would have played," added Garcia, whose baby girl is due in a couple of months.
"It's a Ryder Cup year and it's always exciting, it's going to be great."
He will be looking for a flying start to this year at the Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club today.
The world No. 10 finished 11th here last year, but sounded confident of a better showing in this edition of the SMBC Singapore Open, which ends on Sunday.
Garcia, who was recently nominated for the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award, said: "If I can manage a win here, it'll be amazing.
"But even if we don't, we can still hopefully take positives out of it.
"That first week of the year is always interesting because you're testing yourself a little bit and you haven't played tournaments for a couple of months.
"Everything is a bit fresher but hopefully we can get in quite nicely and get a good solid week and build along from that."
While Garcia had a 2017 to remember, that wasn't the case for Japanese golfer Ryo Ishikawa, who spent the past year trying to regain his form after sustaining a back injury in 2016 which kept him out of action for six months.
The 26-year-old Japanese burst onto the scene back in 2007 after becoming the youngest winner (at 15 years and eight months) of a men's regular tournament on the Japan Golf Tour.
Once tipped to become Asia's Tiger Wood, Ishikawa has yet to fulfil his potential, even losing his US PGA Tour card last year.
But he remains hopeful of a breakthrough.
He said: "A win on the PGA Tour and in a Major are my biggest goals in the next 10 years...
"I'm happy with what I've done in the past 10 years, but I have a more comfortable feeling for the next 10."
He added that he hopes the SMBC Singapore Open will be the springboard for him to achieve greater things.
Said Ishikawa, who is delighted to be playing in the same flight as his idol Garcia: "He's one of my biggest heroes, and this week, I'm going to play with him in the first two days.
"I'm so excited but my goal is to beat him.
"It was a dream come true to play with him, very exciting."
Meanwhile, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) announced yesterday that it would extend its title sponsorship of the tournament for another three years, until 2021.
SMBC's senior managing executive officer, Shosuke Mori, said: "SMBC are very proud to be associated with one of the premier golf tournaments in Asia, so much so that we have taken the decision to continue on as title sponsor."