Extended break is over for Garcia

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CASTELLON, Spain --- Sergio Garcia returns from a two-month break with a renewed appetite for tournament golf at his hometown Castello Masters starting today.

A combination of burnout and a broken heart after the end of his relationship with Greg Norman's daughter, Morgan Leigh, saw the 30-year-old Garcia slip to 68th in the world from a career-high second in March last year.

However, Garcia has dusted off his clubs to play in the European Tour event he promotes in his hometown near Valencia in eastern Spain. His luxury hillside villa overlooks the 7,111-yard course at Club de Campo del Mediterraneo, where he won two years ago.

"I made the decision to stop between The Players and the U.S. Open as I had lost my motivation and felt drained," Garcia said. "I needed a break because I had lost the desire to play, and practicing had become an obligation.

"Since turning pro 12 years ago I have not had a proper break -- even when you take two weeks out during the season you are practicing," Garcia added. "Now, on the contrary, I feel full of energy again and actually enjoy practicing. I have set myself new goals. I hope to return gradually to where I should be and perform to my full potential, that is to be world No. 1."

For the first time in his career, Garcia has sought help with the mental side of his game, using sophrology, a personal development program developed in Switzerland in the 1960s to reduce stress and promote physical and mental well-being.

"When I was down on myself I had many, many questions, but no answers," he said. "I know more about myself and feel able to answer my own questions. I am looking forward to playing again and hope I have got my head right."

The four days in Castellon will also ask questions of his fellow Spaniard and Jose Maria Olazabal, who is making only his second tournament start of the year because of his continuing health problems. Olazabal has been dealing with chronic rheumatism.

He missed the cut when he played in the French Open at the beginning of July, but insisted, "I am feeling better, though not 100 percent well. I am still in pain and need to go on improving in order to perform full level. It's a slow process.

"I cannot practice as I would," Olazabel said. "But I actually played four rounds in a row last week without a problem."

Els claims PGA Grand Slam

SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda --- Ernie Els ran off three consecutive birdies on the back nine Wednesday and turned a three-shot deficit into a one-shot victory over David Toms in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf.

Els, an alternate who was filling in for Masters Tournament champion Phil Mickelson, closed with 2-under-par 69 and earned $600,000. Mickelson elected not to play.

Toms, another alternate who replaced injured British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, shot 71. He earned $300,000.

U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell (73) and PGA champion Martin Kaymer (71) tied for third, eight shots behind, and each earned $225,000.

-- Associated Press


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