SHANGHAI: Sergio Garcia thinks he can bounce back from his mid-season crisis of confidence to defend his title at this week's WGC-HSBC Champions event by holding off challenges from two-time runner-up Tiger Woods and 2007 champion Phil Mickelson.
"Obviously, this year I haven't played as well as I did towards the middle of last year, but I'm looking forward to (this tournament)," said the Spaniard, who rose to No 2 in the world rankings after his win here last November but has since seen his position drop to No 9.
"I've obviously gone through a tough stretch of the year where I lost a little bit of confidence and it cost me a little bit but I feel like my game is getting back. I feel like I'm starting to put some good rounds together. It's just a matter of getting a little bit of consistency," he said. "But I'm looking forward to the challenge. I came here to try to win."
The event, a 72-hole tournament with no cut, was upgraded to World Golf Championship status in April with a purse of $7 million, making it the richest golf event in Asia.
This year seven of the world's top 10 golfers will pitch up at Sheshan International Golf Course to complete a strong field that pits Woods against fellow American Mickelson for the first time in the region.
Woods will also have an opportunity to redress his loss to Yang Yong-eun, the South Korean who beat him here in 2006 and who this summer became the first Asian to win a major - by beating Woods again at the PGA Championship.
Yang was modest when asked if he could pull off another coup for his country.
"I have very high expectations but I will try to remain calm and take it step by step," he said. "No player can be the winner all the time."
Woods said that having what has been dubbed the world's fifth major in China, a country that only built its first professional course a quarter of a century ago, was as big a step forward as the sport's recent addition to the Olympic roster.
"I've played all around the world, on every continent, except Antarctica, they don't have a course there yet but that's part of our responsibility, to play around the world," said the world No 1, who already has 16 WGC titles to his name.
"I think it's great that that this event has become what it has become ... it's just truly remarkable, and how fast it's happened, I think that's the thing that's surprized all of us, the growth of the event and of golf in China."
Woods, who skipped the past two editions of the HSBC Champions for surgery and to be with his family, said he was outplayed on his previous attempts but plans to grab the trophy of the highest-profile tournament yet to elude him.
"The guys just played better than me (before) and they deserved to win the championship. I didn't get the job done. Hopefully, I can put it together this week and hit the proper shots, and putt better," he said.
"Coming out of hospital and playing consistently this year was a big bonus. I'm going to continue and try to improve on that (next year) and hopefully win a few more tournaments, and maybe get a major in there."