- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sergio Garcia won’t defend his Booz Allen Classic title after all.

The Spaniard, ranked ninth in the world, withdrew from this week’s tournament at the TPC at Avenel in Potomac yesterday, further reducing the star power of an event already lacking big names.

Garcia cited a back injury first suffered two weeks ago at the Barclays Classic as the reason for his withdrawal.

“The pain did not get any better during my two rounds at the U.S. Open and therefore I feel that I am going to need to go home, take some time off, and get it looked at by a doctor,” Garcia said in a statement released by the tournament.

Tournament organizers had heavily promoted Garcia’s anticipated presence as the tournament returns to Avenel after a one-year hiatus at nearby Congressional Country Club, only to be left without its highest ranked player just three days before the event begins.

“You always want to have your defending champion in the field,” tournament executive director Bob Jeffrey said. “It sounds like an issue he wanted to take care of.”

Other withdrawals included Chris DiMarco (No. 20) and Carl Pettersson (No. 31), leaving only three of the world’s top 40 players in the field — Padraig Harrington (No. 23), Kenny Perry (No. 25) and Nick O’Hern (No. 27).

Garcia, who shot a final-round 65 for a two-stroke victory over Adam Scott, Davis Love III and Ben Crane in last year’s Booz Allen, had struggled recently. He either withdrew or missed the cut in three of his last four events, and shot consecutive 78s last week to depart early at Winged Foot.

Garcia earned last year’s victory at Congressional in an event played the week before the U.S. Open. This year’s tournament is a week after the U.S. Open, and many players opt to rest the week after the grueling major.

There was a curious addition to the field. Matt Every, who won the 2006 Ben Hogan Award as the top college golfer for his play at Florida, accepted a sponsor’s exemption and will make his professional debut this week.

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