Tue, Nov 09, 2010 - Page 18 News List

Woods no longer fills his opponents with fear: Garcia

AFP, MELBOURNE, Australia

Sergio Garcia said yesterday that defending champion Tiger Woods may be the man to beat in this week’s Australian Masters, but Woods has lost the fear factor that gave him an edge over rivals.

Woods, who lost his world No. 1 ranking to Englishman Lee Westwood last week after a 281-week tenure at the top, is returning to defend the Masters title he won at Kingston Heath here last year.

In a remarkable loss of form, the 14-time major winner is searching for his first tournament victory of this year after his world was turned upside down a year ago.

Woods has endured a torrid time since his return to golf in April following a sex scandal that engulfed his personal and professional life and has left him win-less this year.

Garcia, whose ranking has crashed to 70 from a career-high world No. 2 in March last year and is without a tournament win since 2008, said he was more concerned about his own game than Woods.

The Spaniard said Woods was still a player to beat, but was no longer feared.

“I think you can never count out a guy like Tiger, one of the greatest players we’ve ever had in the game and definitely a man to beat and watch,” Garcia said.

“He’s maybe not as fearsome [as 12 months ago], I think that obviously he’s gone through his fair share of problems too, he’s trying to get back into it too,” he said. “At the moment I’m more worried about myself than him.”

Garcia said he now felt refreshed and had a renewed appetite for golf.

“It’s been great. It’s something I needed to do mainly because I have been playing so much, as a professional and an amateur too,” Garcia said.

“I needed some recharge in the batteries and I feel good and I can start to get back into the game,” he added.

Australia’s top-ranked golfer, Robert Allenby, will play alongside Woods in the opening rounds of the Australian Masters at the Victoria course.

Woods and Allenby will be partnered by experienced Australian pro Brett Rumford.

In the other marquee groupings, Garcia will play with Australian veteran Craig Parry and South Korean-born local amateur Jin Jeong, while Colombian star Camilo Villegas is with Australian US tour players Michael Sim and Greg Chalmers.

US-based Australians Geoff Ogilvy and Stuart Appleby are in another group.

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