Virginia Water: Sergio Garcia spoke of his unending gratitude to the Wentworth galleries after soaring into title contention at the PGA Championship with a sizzling four-under-par 68 in Saturday's third round. The 33-year-old Spaniard was embroiled in a racism row with Tiger Woods earlier this week and had to issue an unreserved apology after making a "fried chicken" jibe at the world number one.
Garcia was almost lost for words as he was asked to describe the reaction he had received from the crowd at the European Tour's flagship event.
"It's getting better every day, there's no doubt everybody has made it so much easier for me," he told reporters after finishing with a five-under total of 211. The crowds here, I don't have words to explain what I feel towards them. They have been amazing, every single tee, every single green, cheering me on, and I can never pay them back."
Garcia said former world number one Lee Westwood had also made a remark to him about how good the fans had been to the Spaniard.
"I think Lee was playing behind on Thursday and he said to me, 'I don't think I've ever heard a roar like that for anybody going on to the first tee here', said the Ryder Cup stalwart. "That was very nice. I love playing here and I love playing in the UK. I've always said it, in my mind, these are the best crowds we have - they really understand the game of golf and what it's all about."
This week is Garcia's first appearance at the PGA event since 2000 but it does not sound as though it will be the last.
"I would love to, for sure, come back as many times as possible," he said.
The warmer weather, after two days of eight-degree Celsius temperatures, persistent rain and bone-chilling winds, also contributed to Garcia's sunny outlook after he mixed six birdies with two bogeys.
"It must be at least 12 or 13 degrees warmer today," said the world number 14. "I hit a lot of good shots but I didn't really putt that well. I'm struggling a little with the pace of the greens and missed a couple of short putts. After the rain the greens get a little bit bumpy, sometimes you hit good putts that don't go in and I hit a couple of bad ones that didn't go in. With weather like yesterday, probably at home you won't even go out of the house, but we had to put the rain gear on and go out there and try our best."