Gunning for Garcia
Sergio Garcia has a new putter, seems to have mended his broken heart and fortunately for him (not that he sees it that way) is still the best player in the world never to have won a major.
Being the best at something is nothing to be sniffed at, especially if you've been struggling.
But this is one honour that has negative connotations and which every incumbent wants to shift on as quickly as possible.
The 29-year-old Spaniard has had his chances to win a host of majors - he's been second three times in 13 top-10 major finishes.
But he knows his career is in danger of being defined not by what he has won, but by what he has not.
The Open, though, presents arguably his best chance of redemption and there would be no more popular winner in Ayrshire this week.
It's his favourite major and six of those top 10s have come on the links courses of Britain.
The UK and Irish public have taken him to their hearts ever since he won the British amateur title in 1998, but mainly for his Open near misses and his inspiring Ryder Cup performances.
"I always loved everything about the Open," said Garcia in his pre-tournament news conference at Turnberry.
"Not only the courses and everything but the people and how well they've treated me throughout my career. I feel the support they give me is just amazing and that really helps me to kind of push myself to a higher level and to try harder. I'm thrilled and I'm looking forward to it."
Garcia is still haunted by - make that the press won't let him forget - the Open that got away at Carnoustie in 2007.
He led after the first three rounds, taking a three-shot cushion into the final day, only to lose out to Padraig Harrington in a play-off after missing a putt for the title in regulation play.
Garcia was visibly distraught afterwards and fuelled his reputation for blaming his bad luck in the post-tournament news conference, though paradoxically his frailty at yet another missed chance endeared him further to the fans.
Harrington was again Garcia's nemesis last August when he pipped the Spaniard into second for the USPGA title. But by November, Garcia had risen to number two in the world behind the injured Tiger Woods.
Since then, he has struggled for form and focus after his relationship with Greg Norman's daughter Morgan-Leigh broke down, but following a 10th at the US Open he says he is happier and ready to concentrate on golf.
"My game is getting better," he said. "We're working on making sure my swing stays in front of me. But I had a good practice at home last week and yesterday I hit the ball well so that's very positive."
To watch Garcia in full flow is intoxicating. He drives long and gun-barrel straight off the tee, and fires an endless array of stunning iron shots in close time after time.
"He is such a glorious striker of the ball," said BBC Sport golf commentator Ken Brown.
"Through the golf ball, Sergio Garcia is the best in the world. From a foot short of it to a foot after it, he is just the dream ticket.
"He loves playing all the shots required for links golf and if he comes in in an inspired mood and gets the ball running for him he will be a factor.
"But he has got to have his head on. If you're not feeling 100% mentally, somewhere along the line you're going to get caught out."
If there is a question mark, it's his putting, which often disintegrates when the pressure is on.
Going into the final round one adrift of playing partner Woods in the final group at Hoylake in 2006, Garcia's confidence on the greens evaporated as quickly as he had roared up the leaderboard with a 65 the day before.
He ended fifth, missing out again to Woods, who had pipped him for the 1999 USPGA title and who beat him into fourth in the 2002 US Open at Bethpage.
"Putting is the department of his game that's least consistently good," said Brown.
"But a bit like Colin Montgomerie, he hasn't got a break at the right time and is far too good a player not to have won a major at this stage of his career."
Probably fearing a grilling over his lack of major success, Garcia held back during the early part of his news conference.
But a glimmer of the old ebullient Garcia, seen at its best after a victorious Ryder Cup, emerged towards the end as he realised he was getting an easy ride.
One reporter began, "Sergio, looking back..." at which point Garcia immediately span around to face the wall behind him.
And to the question: "Where would you rank your putting now, from one to 10?" he fired back "15".
"Funnily enough throughout the last four months the putter has been one of my best clubs," he added. "I got a nice new Rossa putter that feels really, really good."
Garcia, more than anyone, is painfully aware what has gone before, but he is still proud of what he has achieved so far.
"Not many people can say they have been number two player in the world at their sport," said Garcia. "So I'm pretty happy with that.
"There are moments where you feel like you've been maybe a bit unlucky. We all have our good breaks and bad breaks. It's just getting them at the right time.
"I know they say second is the first loser, but I'd rather be the first loser than the 39th."
If he ends up as first winner on Sunday Turnberry will turn upside-down, and we'll have to annoint a new best player never to have won a major.
The press conference should be a laugh, too.
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