It was difficult to adjudicate which was Sergio Garcia's biggest achievement yesterday. Shooting a 64 to conjure his way back into the European Open or then making it around the M25 and the capital in time to see his friend Rafael Nadal sprint through his semi-final at Wimbledon. There were stages during the usual Friday rush when both seemed on the outskirts of impossible.
Suffice to say that both events will now have a Spanish flavour come Sunday afternoon and should Garcia manage to haul back the pacesetters – Ross Fisher and Graeme McDowell, four and three ahead respectively – then he will swagger into the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in two weeks' time looking every inch the favourite to continue his country's remarkable sporting summer.
And do not underestimate what playing for a higher cause than merely himself could do for Sergio's chances of redressing last year's agonising loss at Carnoustie. There are one or two Ryder Cup captains around who will testify to his peerless prowess when competing under a flag. He is unashamedly a team man and it was possible to sense during this second round that he did not want to meet up with his compadre at SW19 last night without some good news of his own of which to boast. Garcia does not do "inferior".
Nadal learned as much when the pair first linked up last October, on Nadal's home island of Majorca. On playing with him in a pro-am and seeing how adept the tennis boy was on the fairways, Garcia was not about to let the other El Niño claim all the bragging rights. So the one-time boyfriend of Martina Hingis challenged Nadal to a game of tennis. "It was awesome," remembered Garcia yesterday. "And he was quite impressed with my tennis. As much as I was impressed with his golf."
With that revelation Garcia was up and off on his dash from Kent to Surrey, only pausing to text his newest amigo. "Rafa and I send messages to each other," he said. "I'm sure he will be happy about my round."
Garcia might just have left out the bit about the bogey on the fourth (13th) and the three-putt on the par-five fifth (his 14th). They had threatened to derail what had been warming up to be a red-hot trail. "I am not happy with the way I played four and five," said the 28-year-old. "I had a really good score going and my second shot on four from the middle of the fairway with a nine-iron became plugged in a bunker and stopped my momentum."
Not for too long, however. Three holes later he rattled in a nine-foot eagle putt at the long eighth (his 17th) and then, on his last hole, holed from 18 feet for another birdie to make him eight-under for the day, nine-under for the tournament. "The good news is I got myself back into the event," he said.
He acknowledged he still has his work cut out to get to the top of star-packed leaderboard. Not only is there the in-form duo of Fisher (13-under) and McDowell (12-under) to leapfrog but also a couple of big-timers in Ian Poulter and Colin Montgomerie close in behind on seven-under.
Poulter and Montgomerie were paired yesterday and were almost involved in a spat when the former apparently tired of hearing the latter's legendary whinges to the cameramen. Poulter mimicked to the crowd about Montgomerie talking too much and for a while the atmosphere was tense. But later both laughed it off. That was a relief as there was a rather enthralling golf competition on which to focus.