Garcia eyes Australian conquest
Winning in Australia is unfinished business for 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia, who wants to add a 16th country to his astonishing world map of conquests in Sydney in December.
Snaring the Spanish superstar as a headline act for the Emirates Australian Open from December 5-8 is a coup because his proven crowd-pulling power beefs-up an already impressive field.
Garcia is a true global golfer and his win last weekend at the Dutch Open ticked victory in a 15th country over his 20-year pro career.
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Taiwan's CT Pan will also feature at The Australian Golf Club as the fourth player on the Internationals team to heed the call of captain Ernie Els to acclimatise early for the Presidents Cup a week later at Royal Melbourne.
The pair add to an exciting roll call for the Open by joining Australian favourites Jason Day, Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith, four-time major winner Els, classy South African Louis Oosthuizen, and in-form Englishman Paul Casey, the world No.13.
This will be Garcia's first Australian Open appearance and his latest chance to grab a win on these shores after a series of near-misses on previous visits.
In 2001, he lost the Greg Norman Holden International to Aaron Baddeley at The Lakes in Sydney when they were both hotshot kids.
"It would be amazing to win because I have been very close in Australia a couple of times before," said Garcia, who also had third placings when the Australian Masters (2000) and Johnnie Walker Classic (2002) were still alive.
"Everybody knows how much I love to play all over the world and I know the Stonehaven Cup has a great history.
"Places you want to be is one of the biggest motivations when it comes to going back."
Outside of his 10 wins in the US, Garcia has also grabbed titles in Ireland, Germany, France, his homeland of Spain, Qatar, Dubai, Switzerland, China, South Africa, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and now The Netherlands.
As a recently minted Masters champion, Garcia was a hit on his last visit in 2017 when he played the Australian PGA on the Gold Coast in a magnetic pairing with Adam Scott over the opening two rounds.
Hospitality marquees at Royal Pines were sold out in advance and a healthy gallery was waiting for them even with a 6.10am tee time for the opening round.
Australian Open organisers may be wise to let Garcia sleep in a little.
"It was the closest I've had a dinner and a breakfast ever … I've never teed off at 6.10," he said.
Golf Australia chief executive Stephen Pitt was delighted with the addition of both Garcia and Pan to the field.
"Like many, I was very excited when Sergio broke through at Augusta National in 2017 and we couldn't be more thrilled to see that major championship-winning style back in NSW this summer," Pitt said.
"CT's really come of age the past couple of years (with a win on the PGA Tour) and he already has a great affinity with Australia after two previous efforts playing the Australian Open."