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Garcia hoping for Singapore slingshot to new campaign

By John O'Brien

By John O'Brien

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Sergio Garcia enjoyed a hard-earned winter break after a hectic 2016 and the Spaniard is now fit, fresh and raring to go when he opens his campaign at the Singapore Open this week in a region where he has enjoyed plenty of success.

Garcia has won five events in as many countries on the Asian Tour and Singapore could become a sixth should he navigate the demanding Serapong Course better than a field of rivals that includes three-times tournament winner Adam Scott and Ernie Els.

"I've always felt comfortable coming to Asia, I've done very well here in the tournaments I have played," the world number 15 told reporters at Sentosa Golf Club on Tuesday.

"It's always exciting to come here, not only for us but also for Asian fans, they don't get to see us that often so you always feel like there's a lot of good energy around so it makes for exciting times."

Garcia regarded 2016 as one of his most productive years as a golfer, breaking a four-year winless drought on the PGA Tour with his second Byron Nelson triumph in Texas last May before playing in the Olympics and for Europe in the Ryder Cup.

This year, his playing schedule is far less frenetic but the 37-year-old is refusing to set specific targets other than to play well and try to put himself in the mix for victories.

"I've had a nice little practice from the New Year onwards and am excited about starting the season here," he added. "It's definitely much warmer than Europe and I hope I start well this week, get some good vibrations for the year and get it going.

"The scheduling is a little easier but the goals remain the same: keep getting better and keep the consistency where we have had it over the last few years. The British Open is obviously my favorite tournament but that doesn't mean I won't try as hard in other events."

Garcia turned professional in 1999 and bore witness to the Tiger Woods era of domination, and while his American rival has battled crippling injuries and a complete loss of form in recent years, the Spaniard is curious to see how his former sparring partner fares on his latest attempt at a comeback.

"I think it's a big question mark. I don't think even he knows because of all the problems he has had physically over the last three or four years," Garcia added of the 14-times major winner.

"He's hardly played any golf but he played the Hero World Challenge in December and shot some good rounds as well as struggling a little bit, like anyone would who hasn't played competition golf for that long.

"So, we'll see. It's going to be interesting to see how everything goes, how he reacts and how he feels on the golf course. We'll wait and see."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)