In the Face of an Infected Fingernail, Garcia Fires 66
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Sergio's boo boo feels better!

Battling the intense pain of an infected fingernail — his left ring finger — Sergio Garcia managed to grind out a four-under 66 on Thursday at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, putting himself near the top of the leaderboard and two shots behind first-round leader Jeff Overton. On Monday Garcia, who has played in every British Open since 1998, but has yet to qualify for Royal St. Georges in July, withdrew from the Open Qualifier after four holes because he couldn’t grip the club comfortably and the pain was so excruciating that he questioned whether he’d be able to tee it up later in the week at TPC Four Seasons.

“On Tuesday I didn’t think I had a chance of playing,” said Garcia during his post-round presser. “It was so sore I just — I thought there was no chance. But we worked on it on Tuesday, they gave me some antibiotic cream, and I kept putting on that cream and taking the antibiotics. Yesterday it was sore. If yesterday was the first round, I probably could have forced it, but we didn’t want to do it in the pro-am and having to pull out, and the good thing now is it felt good.”

Since he received a hall pass for Wednesday’s pro-am, he went to the movies and saw “Pirates of the Caribbean.” But thank goodness for that antibiotic cream. Modern medicine does wonders!

Garcia also skipped his practice round on Tuesday, but had to carry out his commitment to a photo shoot with his clothing sponsor, Adidas. One swing was all Garcia could muster before announcing he couldn’t handle it anymore.

“So we were faking every shot,” he said.

The big question was whether Garcia would be able to grip the club without pain when his starting time rolled around on Thursday. Turned out antibiotic cream and some pills do wonders and he felt healthy enough to play.

You know, I’d really like to see Sergio’s grip. I keep gripping a club and trying to imagine whether it’d put that much pressure on my left ring finger. Everyone has a slightly different grip, so I can’t speak for Sergio. I think the left index finger would be the most painful fingernail to have injured.

Spending most the week sidelined, Garcia teed off on the 10th on Thursday. From 116 yards in the right rough, he holed out his sand wedge to post an eagle on his opening hole. Not a shabby start!

“I guess it’s funny how golf is sometimes,” said Sergio. “Yeah, rarely practice at all and then we get there and I was fortunate because I hit my driver right but I caught a good lie.”

Of course, it’s still very early in the tournament, but Garcia, whose last victory on the PGA Tour came at the ’08 Players, could really use a win this week. Ranked No. 73 in the world, he’s not qualified yet for the US Open or the British Open, putting his streak of 47 consecutive starts at majors in jeopardy. To bypass the 36-hole US Open qualifier in Memphis on June 6, which Garcia plans to play in, along with earning a spot in the British, he needs to surge to the top-50 in the world by Monday when the latest edition of the rankings are published. But even a win at the Byron might not be enough to vault him 23 spots, especially since the field isn’t particularly strong.

It doesn’t sound like it’ll be the end of the world for him if he doesn’t make it.

“There is no urgency at all,” said Garcia. “If I get to the U.S. Open, I’ll be happy; if I don’t, I’ll go back home. At the end of the day, it’s not the end of the world if for whatever reason I happen not to qualify for the U.S. Open.

“I would love to be in it, but if I don’t, I’m not going to go home and start crying. Hopefully there are many more years of U.S. Open to come to play. Definitely I’m going to be trying hard to get in it.”

But how much does he value his running streak? Apparently not too much.

“No, it doesn’t mean anything to me,” said Sergio. “Some people focus about records and things like that. I just — I just want to do the best I can and I want to enjoy what I do. I want to be the best person I can be and try to help as many people as I can.”

Now if we’re talking psycho-babble…that’s straight out of the textbook. Good for him, though. As long as he’s happy, then that’s all that matters.

Asked how much he thinks about fellow Spaniard and idol Seve Ballesteros, who passed away several weeks ago after a tough battle with a brain tumor, Sergio revealed he’d lost a cousin recently, as well.

“It’s the way of life,” he said. “We’re all going to be there one day. You obviously care but at the end of the day you have to move on.”

Then Garcia, pointing his finger skyward, said, “This one is for you, Seve.”

(AP Photo/Matt Strasen)