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Page last updated at 13:23 GMT, Tuesday, 15 July 2008 14:23 UK

Garcia aims for Spanish hat-trick


Spanish successes inspires Garcia

Sergio Garcia is hoping to add an Open triumph to Spain's glorious year of sporting success.

Garcia has seen his friend Rafael Nadal win the French Open and Wimbledon in tennis, while Spain's footballers claimed the Euro 2008 title.

"It would be great," said Garcia, who is the bookies' favourite at Birkdale.

"This year has been solid for me so far and, with the Spanish football team and Nadal, I'm just trying to keep up with my fellow countrymen."

Garcia was in touch with Nadal during Wimbledon and also counts the likes of Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas - key members of Spain's European Championship-winning side - among his friends, travelling to Vienna to watch their final against Germany.

But Garcia can call on other sources of inspiration after he lost out in agonising fashion in a play-off against Padraig Harrington last year.

The 28-year-old has six top-10 finishes from his last seven Open appearances, but it was a missed putt to win the title which really hurt - although he has subsequently managed to put the loss into perspective.

"It's really not that a big deal," Garcia said. "There's a lot worse things than losing an Open in a play-off.

"'I hit a perfect putt. I still believe that. Halfway to the hole I knew it was going in - and then it didn't.

"Why does this happen? It's golf I suppose but it was hard to take at the time. But there were a lot more positives coming out of that week than negatives."

Garcia comes to Birkdale with a Players Championship, often regarded as the unofficial fifth major, under his belt.

"The strength of the field, the difficulty of the course, the conditions, it really felt like a major," said Garcia.

"The winning score was like a major and for us it feels like the fifth major. We all know it's not but it's one of the biggest tournaments we play all year."

A second-place finish at the European Open two weeks ago has also added to the perception that Garcia is shaping up very nicely for another crack at the title.

I feel like my game is probably as good as it's ever been

Sergio Garcia
"I feel good with my game. I feel good with myself. I feel like I'm getting better as a player every tournament I go around," he said.

"I'm learning more things about myself and I've just got to make sure that I keep believing in myself and I will have a chance.

"I feel like my game is probably as good as it's ever been."

Garcia's pedigree in the tournament and recent form has established him as the bookies' favourite.

"It doesn't matter what anybody else says," added Garcia.

"I have to go out there and do what I know how to do, believe in my ability to do it and then give myself a chance at winning.

"It's nice to be favourite but it doesn't mean it's going to help me, like my chances are going to be better because of that. I still have to go out there and perform."

see also
Birkdale's Open history
14 Jul 08 |  Golf

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