Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez produced the biggest final round comeback of The 2003 European Tour International Schedule when he came from six strokes behind to win the Telefonica Open de Madrid at Club de Campo de Madrid.
Victory for Gonzalez, his second on The European Tour International Schedule following his previous triumph in the 2001 Omega European Masters, not only earned him the significant sum of €233,330 but also the added bonus of a coveted place in the next week’s Volvo Masters Andalucia after climbing from 87th to 46th in the Volvo Order of Merit with earnings of €470,152.
Gonzalez put on a breathtaking display over the weekend to first catch and then overhaul leader Paul Casey after the Englishman had led since a 63 in the opening round. Gonzalez put himself in the frame with a third round 66 and then played magnificently during the final round, converting eight birdies in 12 holes to move to 15 under par and two clear playing the last.
But, later admitting nerves got the better of him, he found the bunker short of the pin with his approach and was unable to save his par. Nevertheless his final round of 65 set the clubhouse target of 14 under par 270 and with Ireland’s Padraig Harrington and Swede Marten Olander already in the clubhouse on 13 under par, only Casey and Australian Nick O’Hern remained on the course with a chance of catching him. Both needed to birdie the last but neither player was able to convert on the testing final green.
That left Gonzalez to celebrate his second victory with the mouth watering prospect of another week’s golf in Spain as he heads to Club de Golf Valderrama for the season’s grand finale knowing he is fully on top of his game.
Gonzalez, who after his run of eight birdies in 12 holes from the fourth sank a vital 30-foot par putt on the 16th, said: "After three putting the second I thought the tournament was over.
"I was seven behind and the will had left me. I didn't have any motivation, but then I started to play well, the door was opened and the light switched on for me. That was the best round I have played this year.”
Sergio Garcia mounted a strong home challenge and a birdie over the last two holes would have forced a play-off but instead the Spaniard bogeyed both to finish joint sixth with 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie, Matthew Blackey and Peter Fowler. His performance in Madrid did however secure his place in the Volvo Masters Andalucia.
On the matter of the Volvo Masters Andalucia Olander came agonisingly close to earning a berth in the elite field when be produced his best performance on The European Tour by finishing joint second. But the cheque for €93,137 was not quite enough to lift him into the top 60 in the Volvo Order of Merit as he missed out by one place, climbing as he did to 61st.
Instead the last spot for the concluding event of the season went to 2002 Volvo PGA Champion Anders Hansen.
Further down the Volvo Order of Merit there was also celebration for three Englishmen with Luke Donald, Robert Rock and Ian Pyman holding on to 115th, 116th , and 117th places in the Volvo Order of Merit to earn full playing privileges on The 2004 European Tour International Schedule. The top 115 members plus affiliate members earn Category 7 Membership for the following year and with both Donald and Rock affiliate members the final card for 2004 went to the player in 117th place, namely Pyman.