Sergio Garcia, the former world No.2, hopes that his Qatar Masters victory on Saturday is a sign of good things to come this season. The Ryder Cup stalwart picked up the 11th European Tour win of his career - and his 26th worldwide - after beating Finland's Mikko Ilonen on the third hole of a sudden-death play-off in Doha.

The Spaniard is considered to be one of the finest golfers never to have won a major championship in his career and his eye-catching performance in the Middle East last week will tempt a lot of punters to back him for the Masters at Augusta in April.

Garcia last triumphed on the circuit when he captured the Andalucia Masters title in October 2011. His return to winning form on Saturday would not be followed by grand claims of being fitted for a green jacket later this year, but Garcia would still revel in the spotlight.

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"I hope this is the start of an amazing year," he said, after lifting the tournament's grand Mother of Pearl Trophy. "Last year I had a lot of close calls, starting here, so I'm very excited to be able to get my hands on this trophy - this beautiful and heavy trophy. It's great to set up my year a little bit, to win again on the European Tour."

It is the eighth straight year the 34-year-old had competed in Qatar and victory over Ilonen made amends for his near miss 12 months earlier when he was edged out by Chris Wood's eagle on the last hole. "I'm thrilled to finally be able to win here," said the world No.11, who ended the regulation 72 holes alongside the Finn on 272.

"I've been close several times so it feels great to finally get over the finish line and go home with the trophy. I've been coming here for eight straight years so the crowd are used to seeing me, which is nice. That always makes you feel comfortable.

"The crowd really made me feel that and hopefully they felt the same way. It was an exciting finish and you could see the crowd also got excited."

It was his third birdie four at the 18th hole which allowed Garcia to edge past Ilonen in the play-off. The Finn, who was aiming for his fourth Tour win, was magnanimous in defeat.

"I played good golf this week so I can't be too disappointed," said the 34-year-old. "I gave it my best shot but Sergio was a bit better this time. There's no shame in losing to a great player like him."

The final leg of the tour's three-week Desert Swing - which began with Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal's victory in the UAE - will be at the Dubai Desert Classic, which starts on Thursday. Among the competitors in Dubai are world No.1 Tiger Woods, third-ranked Henrik Stenson and No.7 Rory McIlroy.