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Sergio Garcia hopes to strengthen his lead in The Race to Dubai this week as The European Tour goes to the United Arab Emirates for The Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

The World Number Two from Spain has led the inaugural race since his victory at the HSBC Champions and is looking to open up a sizeable gap on the chasing pack.

He said: “I won the HSBC and it's the beginning of The Race to Dubai and we still have a long way to go. We have to keep playing well and hopefully have a good chance come November.

“It's good to see at least some of the guys that play on the US Tour are going to be more interested and you know, any time you get good quality players like that coming and playing on your Tour and joining your Tour is always great, not only for golf, but for The Tour itself.”

Garcia enjoyed a good year in 2008, climbing to second in the World Rankings and narrowly missing out on a first major, something he hopes to change in 2009.

“Obviously one of the goals is to win a major,” continued the Ryder Cup player.

“So I guess that's probably the only place where I'll set up kind of a goal and try to get on that. Other than that, I'll try to play as well as I can at any tournament and try to win it if I have the chance.”

Padraig Harrington has twice denied Garcia in the closing stages of a major championship and the Irishman is another star player hoping to get their 2009 campaign off to a good start in Abu Dhabi.

However, the 37 year old is aware that he faces a tough challenge trying to surpass his achievements from last year, when he won a second consecutive The Open Championship and the PGA Championship.

He said: “Obviously last year was such a good year, it would be hard to set goals based on last year. So I'm trying to focus on the process and just trying to improve my game and I do believe I'll be a better player this year.

“That doesn't necessarily mean that my results will be better, but over time, it will even itself out. So I'm comfortable that things are going on the right track and just trying to stay with results.

“I'm looking forward to the week. It’s a tough course. The rough is very heavy, it's all brushed in off the tee, so you have to hit it very straight off the tee, which first week out, just seems a little bit difficult.

“I think with The European Tour, I think The Race to Dubai has really added a great boost. As you said there yourself, there's more international players coming back.

“I would say I'm more hopeful than expecting, because of the fact that it's the start of the year. You are a little bit raw in terms of your scoring ability and that really determines whether you win or not during the week. I like the golf course.”

US Masters Champion Trevor Immelman admits he is yet to get a look at the course at Abu Dhabi Golf Club after jetting in from Hawaii after the Mercedes-Benz Championship.

“Up until this point, I've only seen the clubhouse and the driving range,” said the South African.

“I haven't seen the course yet. But I'm looking forward to getting out there, I've obviously watched it on television and seen what a great event it is from that sense.

“So I'm excited to be here and competing. I'm looking forward to getting out there and seeing the course. The key for me is that I now know that when I play my best golf, it's good enough to win the biggest tournaments. So that is definitely a confidence boost for me.”

Sweden’s Henrik Stenson is another hoping to take home the €245,122 first prize.

The Omega Mission Hills World Cup winner with Sweden now resides in Dubai and has done well in tournaments in Asia in the past.

He said: “I've had a very good record in this region, and at this tournament, as well. I would like to go one better obviously. I've been second twice, so a win would be nice.”
 
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