European Masters: Garcia stalks leaders while Wie weeps

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It is a question not often posed: can the worst golf of the best golfer in the field beat the best golf of his demonstrable inferiors? In the third round of the Omega European Masters here, Sergio Garcia played the last nine holes about as badly as he could.

He was in five bunkers and missed four of the nine greens, but the short game for which he is renowned salvaged a level-par 35, for a round of 68.

As a result, the world No 8, the highest ranked player in the field by miles, is, on 205 (eight-under par), still only five behind Bradley Dredge (91st in the world rankings); three behind Marcel Siem (291st); one behind Oliver Wilson (344th) and one ahead of Francesco Molinari (171st) and Andrew McLardy (318th).

Two things are certain today. One is that the Spaniard, the defending champion, will relish the chase, and the other is that the rear-view mirrors of the leaders will be rather well used.

An air of normality returned to the tournament once Michelle Wie had missed the cut by a whopping 14 shots and the hope must be that this 16-year-old Hawaiian schoolgirl will also be allowed a more normal lifestyle in future. She looked worn out towards the end of her first round and close to tears at the end of the second, and more and more people are coming to believe that there has to be a better way of nurturing such a prodigious ball-striking talent.

One of them, for the first time, appears to be her father, B J. Seeing how distressed his daughter was on Friday evening, he wondered, for the first time, whether a father should be putting a teenage daughter through these stressful activities. But he also added that it was Michelle's wish to play men's events and he doubted whether he could turn her away from them.

The best thing he could do is to apply to the women's tour in the United States for special membership for his daughter. Players normally have to be 18 before they can join but exceptions are always being made and if Michelle was allowed in, it would reduce the amount of travelling she has to do immediately. Being a member of the tour would also mean she would need releases to play in men's events, and those would not be forthcoming in any great number. And therein lies yet another of the complications that attend the lives of the Wies.

Her biggest sponsors, Nike, Sony and Omega, love the huge publicity generated when she takes on the men, seeing it as payback for the millions they have invested in Wie. What they, and the family, have to calculate is how long they can continue with what they are doing before Michelle's confidence is ruined and the returns diminish sharply.

Whether, in fact, it is for the wisest.