Garcia raises a smile before surge is checked

Popular Spaniard rides World Cup momentum to climb up the leaderboard

There have been some special moments for Spanish sport of late. Rafael Nadal regained his Wimbledon crown and, of course, last Sunday their footballers conquered the world for the first time. But if you are really looking for miracles, putting a smile back on the face of Sergio Garcia would top the lot. The 30-year-old from Valencia has not been his bubbly self these last 18 months. Too many missed putts will grind down even the cheeriest soul. There has been talk of him not being all there on the practice range and a grumpiness on the course has been obvious for a while.

Not long ago, Garcia was the obvious choice as the best player in the world not to have won a major championship. It is not the happiest tag to have around your neck but there is one thing worse – not being talked about as a major contender at all. Once he was the world No 2. Now he is the world No 44. Earlier in the week, however, he went out for a practice round wearing a Spanish football top. Perhaps the joy is rubbing off on his game. After a couple of 71s to make the cut at two under par, yesterday Garcia summoned a huge effort of will power to haul himself up on to the leaderboard.

After a bogey at the second, Garcia snapped into action by chipping in for an eagle at the fifth. He then birdied the sixth, from 25 feet, and the ninth to be out in 33. A succession of pars followed, which in the windy conditions amounted to fine golf. At five under he crept up the leaderboard as others fell back.

Nadal and Garcia are good friends and the tennis star has been encouraging the golfer. As for the World Cup win, Garcia said: "It was great, so intense. For the country it has been the best thing ever. Everyone has gone ballistic. It is great to see." And just being back at the Open helps. "I love this tournament," he said. "The people are always behind me here. I'm not going through the best time but I wouldn't miss this for the world."

But the crucial intervention, it seems, was a heart-to-heart with his family and friends on Friday night. "I let everything out," he said. "I sometimes get caught up in the moment, but I am fortunate to be surrounded by good people. It was an important day. My attitude was better, I didn't let things bother me and that helped. I need to try and enjoy my golf and, it's what I've always done, but it hasn't been that way of late."

Garcia has not won a tournament since late in 2008. That was the year he also won the Players Championship in the US, the next best thing to a major, and despite the near miss of his play-off loss to Padraig Harrington at Carnoustie in 2007, he appeared to be on the verge of stepping up to the ultimate level.

But last year his relationship with Greg Norman's daughter, Morgan-Leigh, ended and he admits that a bitterness at life lingered. Over time it seemed to seep into his golf. Never the greatest putter, whenever he found a way to hole out steadily he was a dangerous customer. This was due to the quality of his ball-striking and long game. But an increasing lack of confidence on the greens eventually works back through the bag.

He had lacklustre appearances at the first two majors of the year and missed cuts in tournaments he might have been expected to win, such as those in Madrid and Munich.

Garcia even advised Colin Montgomerie, the European Ryder Cup captain, that he might not worth a wild card for the match against the Americans at Celtic Manor in October. Ever since he electrified the European team at Brookline in 1999, Garcia has been an integral part of the Ryder Cup experience and the thought of him not being around this time may be exercising Monty's little grey cells to distraction.

When your confidence is frail, it is tough to finish things off. Yesterday, after he ran his second shot at the mean 17th on to the 18th tee, Garcia took three to get down. Just when he needed it, a putt from 15 feet would not drop. As is so typical of the game, he faced another putt of a similar length for a birdie at the last to make up the dropped shot.

This one did not go in, either. Garcia's shoulders, as they seem to do automatically, slumped. It was a 70 and at four under he could still make a run today, although he will need help from those ahead and the weather.

"I hope the wind keeps blowing," he said. "I am playing a little better and I felt I played my best in the toughest conditions. Unfortunately, I missed a couple of chances coming home but I am going to go out and have fun tomorrow."

He may not win The Open, but a Garcia having fun again is good news for golf.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform