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World Number Two and Race to Dubai leader Sergio Garcia joins current Major Champions Padraig Harrington and Trevor Immelman as the headline acts in a high profile production for the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the first leg of The European Tour’s exciting three-week ‘Gulf Swing’.

With a ‘supporting’ cast containing 2007 champion Paul Casey, defending champion Martin Kaymer, eight time European Tour Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie, World Number 12 Henrik Stenson and his Ryder Cup team-mates Miguel Angel Jiménez and Oliver Wilson, as well as rising stars Ross Fisher and Rory McIlroy, the 2009 Abu Dhabi Golf Championship has genuine ‘blockbuster’ potential.

Garcia is making his second appearance on The 2009 European Tour International Schedule after getting his season off to the perfect start with victory in the HSBC Champions.

That memorable win propelled the Spaniard into an early lead in The Race to Dubai and he is hoping to extend his advantage by winning the glorious Falcon Trophy – as well as the winner’s share of the US$ 2 million prize fund, namely $333,330 – at the magnificent Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Garcia’s current earnings of €650,383 from the HSBC Champions gives him a healthy lead in The Race to Dubai over Englishman Wilson, who has €485,617 to his name. The dashing Spaniard said: “Playing in Abu Dhabi is always exciting. The course is fantastic, the competition is always very intense and everyone wants to start the year well to build momentum ahead of a long season.

“It’s going to be a tough tournament but it’s always a good start to the year and I really want a win to get the ball rolling on 2009.”

Like Garcia, Irishman Harrington, the current Open and US PGA Champion, is making his second European Tour appearance of the season in Abu Dhabi, while Masters Champion Immelman is looking to build on his tenth place finish at the South African Open Championship just before Christmas.

Harrington said: “I’ve done quite nicely in Abu Dhabi, I like the course and I do feel it’s one I’m competitive on. I am focusing hard on my preparation and I think I’ll be ready with my ‘A’ game. This year I’ll be good to go.

“I believe Abu Dhabi is moving in the right direction in terms of golfing excellence. The standard of the National course is top-class - the conditions are as good as they can be and the course is a joy to play.”

Immelman has sought the opinion of his legendary mentor Gary Player on his trip to Abu Dhabi, with Player – the last South African before Immelman to triumph at the Masters Tournament – effusive in his praise for the Emirate.

“Gary has told me so much about the city, the people, the amazing hospitality and a few tips for tackling the National course – which everyone on Tour says is immaculate,” said Immelman.

“It won’t be easy because the field is very strong, but the Masters has taught me that when I’m playing well I can win anywhere.”

Last year, Kaymer emerged as one of Europe’s most promising youngsters when he led on his own from day one to win by four strokes from Stenson and England’s Lee Westwood. It was an impressive wire-to-wire victory which moved Kaymer to a new level and provided an ideal springboard for the remainder of the season which saw him also capture the BMW International Open in his home country.

Several improvements have been made to the Abu Dhabi Golf Club for the 2009 event, including a bigger spectator village and enhanced sponsors’ area and car parking.

All four days of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship will be covered live on high definition TV, reaching a global audience of more than 140 million in many of Abu Dhabi’s key inbound tourism markets.
 
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