GREENSBORO, N.C. – Sergio Garcia served further notice Saturday that he dearly wants to be on the European Ryder Cup team. He did so the proper way, with his clubs.
On a day when seven players were tied for the lead at one point, Garcia moved one stroke ahead after the third round of the Wyndham Championship. His 66 put him at 14-under 196 at Sedgefield Country Club, a shot up on Tim Clark and Bud Cauley and two in front of Jason Dufner, Carl Pettersson and Harris English.
At this point, Garcia stands a better chance of making the Ryder team than winning the tournament. If he finishes in the top four here, he would move into the top-10 list of automatic qualifiers with one week to go, according to world-ranking projections.
And if he doesn’t qualify, he seems a safe bet to be picked by captain Jose Maria Olazabal for next month’s matches at Medinah Country Club, where Garcia made a splash by finishing second in the 1999 PGA Championship.
Winning the track meet known as the Wyndham won’t be simple. Eight players are within three shots. Expect at least one chaser to go very low, for there has been a score of 63 or better in each of the first three days.
Garcia knows this as he chases his first PGA Tour victory since the 2008 Players Championship and eighth overall.
“It’s going to be a tough day,” the Spaniard said. “There’s no doubt about it. There’s a lot of very good players behind me.”
Garcia has moved ahead because of good ball-striking and scrambling. He has missed but 10 of 42 fairways so far. But, to hear him, he’s not in top form.
“I’ve obviously felt much better,” he said. “I think that in Sweden this year, for example, I felt like I was hitting the ball better than this week.”
Garcia tied for third in that event, the Nordea Masters, in June.
Even though he’s leading, Garcia isn’t as cheerful as he was in his exuberant youth, back before golf and personal setbacks took a toll. Several near misses in majors and putting problems have seemed to sour him over the years.
But he was looking ahead Saturday night.
“I need to hopefully keep getting better in all aspects of my game, and if I manage to do that, then I can get back to where I was in probably in 2008 or so.”
This much is certain: Though he doesn’t smile as much as he once did, he’s a crowd favorite here.
“It looked like Sergio had a lot more support out there than I did,” said Clark, who played at nearby North Carolina State.