By Martyn Herman
HOYLAKE England (Reuters) - Sergio Garcia invariably finds himself in the weekend mix at the British Open, so much so that he has almost become an adopted son for the galleries that follow him around.
"Come on Sergio" is the usual cry and there were plenty of them again on Friday as the Spanish Ryder Cup stalwart followed up a first-round 68 with an up-and-down round of 70 in Iberian-like heat at the Royal Liverpool course.
Sadly for Garcia, who is surely the best player on Tour not to have won a major, he has never quite been able to hold it all together for four rounds of links golf.
He will go into this weekend six shots behind Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, but should the leader falter, the 34-year-old Garcia would prove a popular champion.
"I think that fortunately for me at this championship they want me to do well every time I play," he said of the crowds.
"It's great to be able to feel that. So I'm going to do my best. It would be nice to not only win it for myself, but for them. They obviously deserve it.
"They're very happy with some of the things I've been able to do for Europe on the Ryder Cup. But it would be nice if I could have a chance of winning at an Open Championship."
Garcia went close in 2006, the last time the Open was held in Hoylake. He played in the final pair with eventual champion Tiger Woods that year but slumped to a 73.
"I've got a lot of good memories from this championship and here, Hoylake," added Garcia who, as in 2006, provided one of the shots of the tournament on Friday with an almost identical holed approach shot on the second hole for an eagle.
"Obviously today another one at the same hole.
"It's great to be there. And we need to shoot a good round tomorrow, make sure that we keep ourselves in contention, then see what we can do on Sunday," he added.
Garcia said he had recently watched the movie 'Seve', chronicling the life of the late great Severiano Ballesteros - another Spaniard known for his crowd-pleasing style.
"I don't know if it inspired me to play today the way I did or not. But it obviously is very inspiring to watch it and to see everything that - how he was brought up and how he came into the game," he said.
Asked whether Ballesteros would have enjoyed watching Garcia's frenetic bogey-eagle-bogey-par-birdie start on Friday, he said: "Yeah, he was that kind of player, I guess.
"But I would rather have started with four, three, four. But to have a memory like another hole out on two, it was great."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Toby Davis)