IRVING, Texas - You couldn't tell from the way Sergio Garcia played in his opening round at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, but the former champion was a major doubt to play this week. Just 48 hours after Garcia pulled out of a British Open qualifier in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, due to an infected fingernail, he was back on the first tee at the TPC Four Seasons, feeling much better after taking the last couple of days off to treat the infection with antibiotics.
"Tuesday, I didn't think I had a chance of playing," Garcia said after his 4-under 66 put him in a tie for the lead after the morning wave of players. "It was just so sore, I thought there was no chance. ... If [Wednesday] would have been the first round, I probably could have forced it, but we didn't want to do it in the pro-am and have to pull out."
The treatment must have worked, as Garcia went out on his first hole of the day, the par-4 10th, and holed out from 118 yards for eagle to get his round off to an auspicious start. It was actually the first hole Garcia had played all week, as the injury kept him from getting out on the course for a practice round.
"It's funny how golf is sometimes," Garcia said of the hole-out. " ... I hit it and I saw the guys on the green saying 'in' and I thought, perfect! I couldn't have started in a better way."
Garcia needed only 27 putts in his round, including a string of five consecutive one-putts on his back nine that kept him in contention. While it was an impressive start, it shouldn't come as a surprise to see Garcia in contention early in the week. Just seven days ago, Garcia fired an opening-round 66 at the Crowne Plaza Invitation at Colonial to get in the mix.
But he faltered in the second round, before posting rounds of 67 and 70 on the weekend for a T-16 finish. That's been Garcia's M.O. this season; he's been able to produce a strong round early in the week but never finds a way to follow it up with one that keeps him near the lead.
If he's going to break that trend anytime soon, this week would certainly be a good one, with Garcia's major championship streak, that dates all the way back to the 1999 British Open, on the line. Currently sitting at 73rd in the World Rankings, Garcia needs to get inside the top 50 by June 13 to keep the streak alive and play in the U.S. Open.
A win would certainly help his cause. But even if Garcia doesn't win this week, just putting four good rounds together would go a long way towards justifying the upswing his game appears to be on at the moment.