Garcia wants to show the ‘true Sergio’ in Abu Dhabi

By Phil Casey, PA Golf Correspondent

Sergio Garcia has pledged to show the “true Sergio” when he returns to the event from which he was disqualified last year.

Garcia was thrown out of the inaugural Saudi International for serious misconduct in 2019 after damaging a number of greens during the third round at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.

The former Masters champion apologised for his actions but that cut little ice with world number one Brooks Koepka, who was playing two groups ahead of Garcia at the time and later accused the Spaniard of “acting like a child”.

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Both Koepka and Garcia, who turned 40 earlier this month, will be in the field for this year’s event when it gets under way on January 30, along with Open champion Shane Lowry, Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed.

“I feel terrible about what happened last year,” world number 41 Garcia told a press conference ahead of his season debut in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“Obviously there were some outside things that got me to that point. I want to go there. I want to show my respect to them.

“You know, the easy thing would have been for me to hide and never come back there, but I love the people there, and I love the guys, all the people we met and the Sheikh and everyone that takes care of us during the tournament.

“They are amazing people, and they wanted me to go back. So that was an easy decision, and I’m excited to go back there. Show myself, show the true Sergio, and show them my respect and try to play the best that I can, and hopefully have a great tournament.”

Garcia has won in Dubai and Qatar but has yet to taste success in Abu Dhabi, where Lowry will defend the title he won last year before going on to claim his maiden major title at Royal Portrush.

“I couldn’t really have envisaged what happened,” Lowry said. “I had not won for a few years and I think to win the way I won last year, as well (was important). I led the whole week and then found myself four behind with seven to play and I showed a lot of character, a lot of determination and a lot of heart that day.

“I think that can only give you confidence going forward. Anybody who plays this game knows that a lot of it is built on confidence, a lot of form is built on confidence and that’s what I gained from here last year.

“I have it in my head what I want to achieve this year and the main thing for me is to make that Ryder Cup team. I’ve kind of set my schedule out, I’ve set everything out to do that.”

If Lowry is unable to secure a Ryder Cup debut in September it certainly will not be for the lack of trying, the 32-year-old posting a picture of his blistered hands on social media after a recent “bootcamp”.

“I was trying to squeeze a lot of practice in, more practice than I normally do,” added Lowry, who finished second in the Asian Tour’s Hong Kong Open last week. “I managed a few blisters but they are somewhat cleared up now.

“I basically had my trainer with me and we were in the gym at 7.00am every morning and we went to the golf course, practised all day and went to the gym again. We probably left the gym at 7.00- 8.00pm and went for dinner and went to bed.

“It was like a little mini bootcamp but it was fine. It was good fun, actually, I really enjoyed it.”

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