CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Sergio Garcia wants to play in the U.S. Open. He hasn’t decided whether he’ll play in a qualifying tournament, if needed, to do so.
Garcia put himself into contention at the Wells Fargo Championship on Thursday with a 3-under 69 that left him five shots behind first-round leader Bill Haas. Garcia needs to play well in the next month in hopes of boosting his world ranking from 72 into the top 50 to get an exemption into next month’s U.S. Open at Congressional.
“Four good weeks, get into the U.S. Open and move on from there,” Garcia said.
Asked what he’ll do if he doesn’t reach the top 50, Garcia stopped short of saying he’ll go through qualifying for the first time.
“I don’t know. It’s still up in the air,” he said. “Hopefully, I won’t have to.”
The 31-year-old Spaniard skipped a European Tour event in his home country at a club he’s a member of this week to play in Charlotte, where there are more ranking points at stake. He’ll also play next week at The Players Championship.
Garcia, coming off his worst season as a pro, has played in every major since 1999.
“I don’t care about streaks. I don’t care about records, things like that,” Garcia said. “I just worry about enjoying it and doing what I love and trying to do it the best way possible.”
PAIN IN THE NECK: Moments after shooting 69, Padraig Harrington closed an interview with a group of reporters Thursday by saying, “It’s nice to be wanted.”
The Irishman isn’t nearly in as much demand as when he was winning consecutive British Open titles and the PGA Championship in 2007-08. Harrington has missed the cut in four of the last five majors, including three straight.
Harrington shot 77 and 72 to send him home from Masters last month, later revealing he played with a sore neck after hurting himself swinging left-handed during his normal warmup routine.
“I couldn’t move my neck to the right at all, maybe 10 percent of what I normally have,” Harrington said.
Now healed, Harrington feels he’s not far removed from contending again.
“I was in good form a few weeks ago. I got injured at the Masters and that obviously set me back,” he said. “I’ve been conscious of getting all parts of my game working. It’s nice, I didn’t play so well, but to score well was good.”
CLEMSON’S DAY: There was a tint of orange in the first round.
Jonathan Byrd (6-under 66) was two shots off the lead and fellow former Clemson golfer Lucas Glover (5-under 67) was tied for fourth.
“I’m glad he’s playing good,” Byrd said of Glover. “But I just want to be right ahead of him, because he’s your buddy.”
It seemed to be a day for golfers with experience at Quail Hollow. Leader Bill Haas, who played at Wake Forest, has played the course countless times. David Toms, who sits two back, won the inaugural event in 2003.
SIMPSON BOUNCES BACK: Four days after an excruciating playoff loss in part thanks to an odd one-stroke penalty, Webb Simpson shot a 2-under 70 and sat six strokes off the lead.
Simpson, who grew up in North Carolina and recently moved to Charlotte, felt comfortable.
“It was a good day,” he said.
That wasn’t the case Sunday.
Simpson, winless on the PGA Tour, was leading at New Orleans by one shot and his ball was less than a foot from the cup on the 15th green when it moved. Simpson believed it was caused by the wind. He was still issued a one-stroke penalty and lost in a playoff to Bubba Watson.
The U.S. Golf Association is considering modifying the rule.
“I’d like for it to be changed,” Simpson said. “I think every other player on the PGA Tour agrees with me, so we’ll see what happens.”
A BLANK WALL: That 5-wood David Toms used to make an ace in the third round of his PGA Championship victory 10 years ago is now in a glass trophy case in a game room at home in Louisiana.
Even more interesting is the game room itself.
It has a pool table and a couple of televisions, which is to be expected. He also has the trophies from his 12 wins on the PGA Tour in special box cases with a light shining on the hardware.
And then there’s the blank wall.
“There’s no boxes,” Toms said. “But behind it there are boxes in case I won more. It’s all finished out. It’s just a blank wall right now, but it can be cut out. The boxes are there with the lights, everything is ready to go. Just have to cut a hole in it.”
First, though, he has to win.
As for those other trophies? Some of them are collector’s items. Four of his trophies come from tournaments that no longer exist – the Michelob Championship at Kingsmill (twice), the Buick Challenge at Callaway Gardens and the International in Colorado. Another trophy comes from the Match Play Championship, although it’s no longer played at La Costa, where Toms had a strong record.
DIVOTS: Players who went off early were met with wind and temperatures in the 40s. “It was downright cold,” said Brandt Jobe, who shot 69. … The tournament is sold out for the eighth time in nine years.