By Andrew Both
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - U.S. Masters champion Sergio Garcia has a simple explanation for why only three players have successfully defended their green jacket.
Jack Nicklaus (1965-66), Nick Faldo (89-90) and Tiger Woods (2001-02) have won consecutive U.S. Masters, but the list of great players who have failed to win back-to-back titles is much longer.
"The simple answer is it's just difficult to win," 2017 champion Garcia said on Tuesday, two days before the first round at Augusta National.
"It doesn't matter if it's back-to-back or just one. So people don't realize how difficult it is to win any tournament, and a major is even tougher, and Augusta and the Masters, it's even more difficult.
"So it doesn't mean that I'm not going to give it my best shot and I'm going to try as hard as I can, but it's not easy."
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The Spaniard, 38, took almost two decades longer to win his first major than was widely expected when he burst onto the scene as a precocious and talented teenager in the late 1990s.
But success at regular tour level -- and for Europe at the Ryder Cup -- did not translate into major titles.
After several close calls, most notably a playoff loss to Padraig Harrington at the 2007 British Open, it appeared Garcia's time had come and gone.
With his confidence on the greens shot to pieces, he turned into a mere shadow of his former self.
Garcia once said that at times he doubted his ability to win a major.
"I'm not good enough ... I don't have the thing I need to have ... in any major," he famously told Spanish media at the 2012 Masters.
He later clarified the comments were made in the heat of the moment and on Tuesday said they showed what he was going through at the time.
"I don't regret it," he said.
"The media, you guys are always asking for people to be truthful, and I'm not sure there's many more out there more truthful than myself.
"I'm just trying to make you guys realize what I'm feeling, what I'm going through. It's what I felt at that time.
"It doesn't mean that when I left here my mind wasn't different. And it did change because I gave myself chances to win majors after that."
He says that he finally won a major when he stopped thinking that he had to, beating Justin Rose in a playoff at Augusta last year.
He goes for a repeat in solid if not spectacular form with the media's focus falling mainly on Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.
"Every week is different, and it's just a matter of how I'm going to feel on Thursday, how the nerves are going to be, because I know I'm going to be a little bit nervous," he said of his chances.
"But I'll try to go through the things that I know help me and hopefully get off to a good start ... and really enjoy the week."
(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Toby Davis)