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Garcia re-emerges just 1 off lead

When a reporter asked Sergio Garcia Friday which of his fingers was infected, Garcia raised his left hand and showed him his bandaged middle finger.

And only his middle finger.

It was worth a laugh – even the Augusta National member moderating Garcia’s news conference chuckled – and there haven’t been a lot of those for Garcia at the Masters.

The last time he did anything of note at the Masters, he shot 66 in the final round in 2004 to tie for fourth – his personal best at Augusta National – then he whined to the media about various perceived slights, including the attention devoted to a certain Tiger Woods.

Garcia is 32 now, has played in the past 51 major championships dating back to the 1999 Open Championship and he’s still trying to win one. He had his heart broken by Padraig Harrington at the Open Championship in 2007 and, in recent years, he’s searched for the joy that went missing in his game.

It’s coming back, a little of the joy and a few more of the flashes that made us think a decade ago that he could be the Arnold Palmer to Tiger’s Jack Nicklaus. It didn’t happen that way.

But two days in and with two more to go, Garcia sits one shot off the lead in the Masters, close enough to flirt with the idea of winning at a place that hasn’t shown him much love. Asked if the Masters is the major championship he is most unlikely to win, Garcia conceded the point.

“It’s the one I have done the worst, so probably,” he said.

Garcia’s infected middle finger – it’s in the nail – is similar to a problem he had last year. It’s puffy and tender and especially sore in the mornings. It’s improving, though, and if Garcia doesn’t win this Masters it won’t be because of a fingernail. He has long been one of the game’s purest ball strikers but a hostage to his putter.

Things turned dark for a while, the light now gradually returning. Maybe his sunny day will arrive this weekend.

“I don’t know if I’m ready to win,” he said. “I’ll see. We’ll see.”

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