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Sergio Garcia has five top-10 finishes in his last seven Open Championships. (Photo: Getty Images)

Confident Garcia ready to go one step further

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After a playoff loss at Carnoustie a year ago and a win last May at THE PLAYERS Championship, Sergio Garcia knows the time might be now for that first major win.

By T.J. Auclair, PGATOUR.COM Interactive Producer

SOUTHPORT, England -- Sergio Garcia is fine with being the favorite to win this week's 137th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

However, the Spaniard knows the odds mean nothing and all he really cares about is hoisting the Claret Jug on Sunday evening.

"When you don't have the No. 1 player in the world playing here -- and obviously, we know how good he is and how well he's done in the majors -- it gives you a little bit more of a chance," Garcia said. "But it doesn't mean that it's yours to win."

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That's right -- with Tiger Woods on the bench this week there's never been a better chance for the best-player-never-to-win-a-major to shed that title.

"It doesn't matter," Garcia said of Woods' absence. "With all due respect, the Open is bigger than any of us, even Tiger Woods. And if I happen to never play golf again or Tiger happens to never play golf again, the Open will still be played, and that's the most important thing. Nobody is bigger than the tournament itself, and it can be a great player, but it doesn't matter. You know, if I manage to win this week, I'm not going to go, 'oh, I won the British Open but Tiger wasn't there.' I still have the Claret Jug, which is the most important thing."

Few have been better than Garcia in the Open Championship over the last several years. Aside from his playoff loss to Padraig Harrington at Carnoustie in 2007, Garcia has had five other top-10 finishes in his last seven starts.

The defeat at Carnoustie -- where Garcia started the final round with a three-shot lead -- certainly stung him, which was visibly apparent in that evening's aftermath.

"Obviously Sunday night and Monday were a little bit tough,' he admitted. "Other than that, like I said before, you think about the week, you think about everything you did, and you realize that you did the best you could. I mean, I felt like I hit a great putt in regulation to win the Open. Unfortunately it didn't go in. And then in the playoff I hit some really good shots. I hit some really good putts, and unfortunately they didn't drop. There's nothing else you can do."

This time around things are a little different for Garcia. He's worked particularly hard on his putting with short-game guru Stan Utley this season and those sessions yielded quick dividends as Garcia won THE PLAYERS Championship -- his first TOUR win in three years.

The win at TPC Sawgrass was the biggest of Garcia's career and he said it gave him loads of confidence because of the prestige with which the players hold that tournament.

"The strength of the field, the difficulty of the course, the conditions, it really felt like a major," Garcia said. "The winning score was like a major. So it did feel like it. And for us, you all know that it feels like the fifth major. We all know it's not, but it's one of the biggest tournaments we play all year, and it's always nice to be able to win that one."

As good as THE PLAYERS victory felt, nothing would match a win at the Open.

For a European like Garcia, the Open is the major he's dreamed of winning since he was a child.

Garcia has drawn further inspiration from his homeland. The Spanish soccer team recently won the Euro Cup for the first time in 44 years, while tennis star Rafael Nadal won the French Open and Wimbledon.

"I feel like my game is probably as good as it's ever been," he said. "I don't feel complete, but I feel like I'm closer."

Essentially, Garcia feels he needs to win just to keep up with his countrymen.

"It would be great," he said. "But I know what I have to do, and hopefully I'll be good enough. And if I manage to win here, it'll be something. It'll be a very good summer for Spain. But it's not going to be easy."

So if Garcia were to win, what would be the biggest sports story in Spain this summer?

"Without a question, the football [soccer]," he said. "In Spain, football is the biggest."

Then what would be second -- Garcia or Nadal?

"Me," he laughed.

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