Garcia in command in Valencia
It would be a huge surprise if Sergio Garcia does not go out and break the longest winless drought of his career on Sunday.
It would be a huge surprise if Sergio Garcia does not go out and break the longest winless drought of his career in the Castello Masters on Sunday.
Golf being golf, nothing is ever certain until the fat lady sings, but the 31-year-old Spaniard was in such a commanding position after moving Saturday and in such good nick at Valencia’s Club de Campo del Mediterrane where he first won the club championship at the age of 12, it is difficult to see anyone overhauling and beating him.
On Saturday, almost three years after he went to world number two with his 18th professional victory, Garcia, who subsequently fell as low as No 75 on the same Rankings list and lost his Ryder Cup place last year, will tee off on Sunday with an eight-stroke lead and his confidence and energy levels sky high again having shrugged away the personal problems that had dogged him for too long and found a solution to his putting woes.
Indeed his golf has never been better as he went out on Saturday to add a third round 7-under 64 to the 63 he shot on Friday and soared to a 19-under 54-hole total in the best back-to-back scoring spree of his career.
He leads by eight from Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, who is in sole possession of second place with a 66 and is nine shots clear England’s first round leader Ross McGowan and a further shot in front of Scot Richie Ramsay, Englishman Anthony Wall and Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
Swede Alex Noren, who was only two shots behind Garcia after the first 36 holes started every bit as slowly as his Spanish playing partner, following Garcia’s bogey on the third by making a six at the long fourth – but he then lost a ball en route to a double-bogey seven on the 549-yard eighth and never recovered, eventually falling back to an 8-under total that put him in joint 7th place, all of 11 shots of the white hot pace being set by Garcia.
In contrast, Garcia ignited his round with a 15-foot putt for birdie at the seventh and made another for eagle on the next after a glorious three-wood approach.
But the really crucial stretch for Garcia, however, came on the closing stretch when he made four birdies in a row from the 13th and then put the icing on his spectacular cake with another birdie at the last.
Garcia’s magnificent form this week has been coming for a while.
After seeming to sort out his troublesome putting by switching to a claw grip, he was seventh in the US Open in June and then lost a five-hole play-off to compatriot Pablo Larrazabal at the BMW International Open in Munich.
With a ninth place finish in The Open and 12th at the PGA Championship, he climbed back into the world top 50 and the title tomorrow could see him finish just outside the top 30.
But he’s taking nothing for granted.
Garcia told Sky Sports afterwards: “It’s well set up, but it’s not over. Anybody can shoot a round like I did the last couple of days.
“I will have to be very focused. Everybody is going to try to attack me and I have to realise that.
“There are still a couple of things I would like to improve, but it’s obviously getting better and I’m finding I have more and more confidence.”
On playing at home in front of strong local support he said: “It’s just a special feeling. The only other time I get this is in the UK when I play the in Ryder Cup or in the British Open. The energy of the crowd is just amazing.”
While it is a big day coming up for Garcia it is a huge one for McGowan. In the hunt for a Ryder Cup debut until wrist and shoulder injuries intervened last year, the Englishman is a lowly 163rd on this season’s money list and needs to get into the top 115 to retain his Tour card for next year.
US Open day one: Rory McIlroy off to fast start as Justin Thomas takes the lead
McIlroy shot an opening round three-under 67 while Thomas carded a five-under 65.
Rory McIlroy flying high after opening round of US Open at Winged Foot
The Northern Irishman is two shots behind leader Justin Thomas, who shot a five-under-par 65 at Winged Foot.
A little more relaxation brings a little more action for Rory McIlroy at US Open
The Northern Irishman shot 67 on the opening day to sit two behind clubhouse leader Justin Thomas.
Prayers answered for Rory McIlroy as US Open hopeful makes speedy start
The Northern Irishman is two shots off the lead after an opening 67 at Winged Foot.
WATCH: Tiger, Rory, Rahm and DJ on what makes Winged Foot so difficult
Golf’s big buns give their thoughts on the tough test that lies ahead at the US Open.
WATCH: Social media star pays tribute to Mickelson with special US Open song
Take a listen to the most heartfelt and emotional song about Phil Mickelson ever created.
All eyes on USGA when the 120th US Open gets under way at Winged Foot
The fact that last year’s championship took place without controversy over the set up of the course was a welcome relief for the organisation.
Tiger Woods ranks Winged Foot as one of the most difficult courses ever
Tiger Woods is under no illusions as to the challenges facing the field when the US Open tees off at Winged Foot on Thursday.