Sergio Garcia is looking forward to making his tournament debut at the Australian PGA Championship as the reigning Masters Champion prepares to tee it up on the Gold Coast this week.
The 37 year old, who last made the trip Down Under in 2010, has had a year to remember since overcoming Ryder Cup teammate and Olympic gold medallist Justin Rose in a play-off at Augusta National to win his first Major Championship.
The World Number 11 also added two more titles to his already impressive resume in 2017 – the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and the Andalucia Valderrama Masters hosted by his own Foundation – and is hoping to end the season on a high note with victory in front of his Australian fans at RACV Royal Pines Resort.
The Spaniard will get play underway on Thursday at 6:10am local time alongside home favourite and 2013 Masters Champion Adam Scott, and Australia’s Wade Ormsby, who claimed his maiden European Tour title at the UBS Hong Kong Open last week.
Meanwhile, American Harold Varner III is excited by the prospect of defending the title he won in stunning fashion last year after he put the play-off heartbreak of 2015 behind him to card a closing round of 65 and secure his first European Tour victory at the Australian PGA Championship.
Varner’s win last year made him the first non-Australian to lift the trophy since New Zealander Greg Turner in 1999, and the young American feels if he can maintain his recent good form, he can once again lead the charge on the Gold Coast.
Sergio Garcia: “I’m very excited to be back in a part of Australia that I’ve never been to so it’s great fun. It’s the last part of the year, so trying to make sure we control the energy levels for the week. Unfortunately, we haven’t been here for a while, so it’s nice to be back. I’ve always liked the courses that we play and I’m excited to see the course tomorrow.
“I’ve always been a big fan of Australia. Everybody knows how much I love to play all over the world. So that was one of the biggest motivations to be back here, which is a place I enjoy coming back and playing. I think it’s quite simple when it gets down to that, it’s places that you want to be. My wife, Angela, she’s never been to Australia, so it’s the first time and it’s also a good experience for her.
“I haven’t seen Scotty (Adam Scott) yet, but I’ve heard the greens are tricky. I’ve heard the greens are where the course really defends itself. So obviously it’s going to be a week where iron play is going to be key to be accurate and try to leave yourself in the best spots on the greens, and when you miss a green here, chipping and putting is going to be important.
“I think 2017 and 2008 are definitely the best years I’ve had in my career. This one, it’s a little bit more special because I won three times in Europe, which I’ve never done in my career, as well as winning the Masters, getting married, expecting a little baby girl – it is on top.
“I am excited about Christmas and some down time, but at the same time, like I said, I’m really excited about this week because I haven’t played in Australia for a long time and I’m excited to play in front of all the Aussies again and I get to enjoy them as much as they will enjoy me.”
Harold Varner III: “I was thinking about the first time I came here and how I didn’t know anyone, didn’t know where to hit it. Now I feel like I have an idea what to do and how different the course has matured the last three years because the first time I played it, that was the first time they opened the course since the redesign. I think I just played really well, so just excited for the challenge and just ready to compete.
“I hadn’t won on any Tour before this event, so I didn’t really change as much as I thought. I felt really bad the next day, super hungover obviously, but it was just a great experience just knowing that you can win.
“I think everyone needs confirmation that they can do it because I think everyone can win but doing it’s a different thing. I think it’s helped me the last couple weeks just knowing that I can win when I need to.
“I know I need to play well. The course sets up pretty well for me obviously. I’ve played well here, so I just need to keep doing what I’ve been doing and that’s compete. I just want to have a chance to win with nine holes to go, that’s what you want to do every tournament and I’ve been fortunate enough to do that the last two years and you can’t really live in the past. I mean, it’s a new year, a new me and I feel like I have another great opportunity.
“I think I have a lot of confidence because I’m starting to play well. Like it doesn’t matter what course I play, I feel like something good’s going to happen. I played well the last day in Hong Kong and drove it better, found some stuff. Just working at it, that’s the stuff I enjoy, and to see the result off the tee is great.”