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US PGA braces itself for the return of Sergio

Sergio Garcia, who looked like a little boy lost at Carnoustie last month, hopes there will be no need to run into his mother's arms in Chicago this week.

An embarrassing last in the Open after rounds of 89 and 83, the 19-year-old Spanish wonder kid plans to show there are no lasting scars at the USPGA Championship starting on Thursday.

Garcia goes into the final major of the season - indeed the millennium - 12th on the Ryder Cup table and his sights firmly still set on taking over from Nick Faldo as the youngest player in the competition's history.

Only one more qualifying event is to come after this week, but Garcia, who prior to his Open nightmare won the Irish Open and finished second to Colin Montgomerie at Loch Lomond, is seeking to secure his place seven days early.

"At the moment I'm entered both for the BMW International in Munich next week and the Sprint International here in America," said the teenager.

"Hopefully I'll be staying here."

To guarantee himself an automatic spot on the team Garcia probably has to finish in the top three on Sunday - a tough task, but one he feels fully capable of meeting.

One thing he has in his favour is length. The Medinah course measures 7,401 yards and therefore displaces Carnoustie as the second longest lay-out ever used for a major.

The rough is US Open-style thick, however, and that is something with which Garcia is unfamiliar. His only previous major in America was April's Masters at Augusta.

Garcia was still an amateur then, but, Carnoustie and another missed cut at the Buick Open in Michigan last week apart, he has made a fantastic start to his professional career.

Such a start, in fact, that even if he fails to make it into the top 10 he is among the favourites for a wild card from Ryder Cup captain Mark James.

As things stand, though, Bernhard Langer, Faldo, Ian Woosnam and Jesper Parnevik need wild cards as well and James has only two at his disposal.

What James also has is the chance to make the side himself and hand over the captaincy, probably to Sam Torrance.

James is just behind Garcia at 13th in the table - Langer is 11th, Parnevik 18th, Woosnam 35th and Faldo 54th - and plays both in Chicago and Munich.

So does Faldo and the 42-year-old former world number one knows he cannot rely on former glories this time to earn him a record 12th cup cap.

An ever-present since he made his debut aged 20 in 1977, Faldo has missed the halfway cut in all three majors so far this year.

At least he has pretty good memories of Medinah.

The US Open was staged on the course in 1990 and Faldo, winner two months earlier of the Masters and a month later of the Open, was a shot away from the play-off in which Hale Irwin beat Mike Donald.

That was his annus mirabilis.

This has to date been his annus horribilis, but to pull something out of the fire at this 11th hour would really give James something to think about - as if he has not got enough already.

American captain Ben Crenshaw has things easy by comparison. The USPGA is the final counting event for his contenders and he has just about everyone he wants looking good for automatic spots.

Tom Lehman, Fred Couples and Lee Janzen are the three currently outside the leading 10 who must surely be on Crenshaw's short-list for wild cards, but they can still qualify.

To do that Lehman, having blown a great chance on Sunday, has to finish at worst ninth, Couples fourth and Janzen first.

More of a concern for Crenshaw is all the talk amongst his players of whether they should be paid for appearing in the Ryder Cup.

Mark O'Meara started the ball rolling, quickly followed by Tiger Woods and David Duval, although Duval is now denying having said that there could be a boycott.

A meeting between players and PGA of America officials was expected to take place at Medinah today.

Even Garcia was asked about the issue after practising yesterday with fellow Spaniards Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

"At the moment all I'm thinking about is trying to make the side," he answered.

"To me it's like a present for playing well."

If he can totally forget Carnoustie, the present might be his this weekend.

If not, it's off to Munich.