US PGA Championship: Garcia in need of timely boost

Sergio Garcia is in need of a return to form as he seeks to guarantee a place in Thomas Bjorn's European Ryder Cup team.

Thomas Bjorn shares a joke with Sergio Garcia   -  Getty Images

If ever there was a week for Sergio Garcia to rediscover something like his best form, this is it.

Sixteen months have passed since Garcia finally ended his torturous wait for a first major title, courtesy of a heart-warming triumph at the Masters.

The Spaniard had claimed a remarkable 22 top-10 finishes in majors before breaking through at Augusta, 18 years after he had first appeared there as an amateur.

Victories at the Dubai Desert Classic and Andalucia Valderrama Masters either side of his landmark win in Georgia merely cemented 2017 as the best year of Garcia's illustrious career.

Yet it has been a very different story in 2018 and the 38-year-old will tee it up at the US PGA Championship on Thursday having missed the cut in all three of the year's preceding majors.

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In any circumstances, such a run would be of concern to Garcia, who has also failed to make the weekend in six of his last 10 events (and there was no cut in last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational). Only in 2003 has he missed more cuts in one year (9) and he could yet reach that unwanted milestone this year.

A looming Ryder Cup, however, makes it even more important for Garcia to bounce back at Bellerive.

Despite his recent struggles, he appears highly likely to earn a place in Thomas Bjorn's European team as a captain's pick. Given Garcia's excellent Ryder Cup record and affinity for the event, it would be an extremely bold move, regardless of form, if Bjorn were to ignore a man who has often served as a talismanic figure for Europe.

In a news conference on Tuesday, Bjorn backed Garcia to turn things around but stopped short of guaranteeing him a place at Le Golf National.

"When you look at Sergio, people like to bring him up, and it's been brought up to me a couple of times over the last couple of weeks," said Bjorn.

"He's a world-class player and he's got some weeks ahead of him where he wants to go out and achieve things, but we also know that Sergio is the type of player that can turn it around in a week or two and then all of a sudden he goes on a great run of form.

"World-class players, all of them [have] ups and downs, and the last few weeks he hasn't played his best, ... but there's still some good signs here and there, and he can turn it around very quickly.

"For Sergio's sake, I would like to see him probably putting in a bit better performances than he has because he's such a quality player and he brings so much to a European team when he's on form."

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As Bjorn suggested, there is still time for Garcia - currently 12th and 20th on the respective world and European points lists with four players qualifying from each - to get back to his best ahead of the Ryder Cup.

However, this week feels particularly significant.

Over to you, Sergio.

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