After three successive second place finishes in Portugal, China and Korea, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño is hoping the Open de España can bring him the luck he deserves to break into the winner’s enclosure on The 2009 European Tour International Schedule.
The Madrid native will arrive at the PGA Golf de Catalunya’s Stadium Course looking to win his fifth European Tour title but will face stiff competition from a high quality field that includes defending champion Peter Lawrie, European Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie, two-time Major Champion John Daly, former Open Champion Paul Lawrie and Volvo Masters champion Søren Kjeldsen, along with a bountiful Spanish contingent.
The host nation once again boasts a talented group of top ranked players including BMW PGA Champion Miguel Angel Jiménez, Open de France ALSTOM champion Pablo Larrazabal, Qatar Masters champion Alvaro Quiros and the resurgent Pablo Martin, but Castaño is the man in form.
“This is a tournament that I think every Spanish player looks forward to,” said the 28 year old. “Our National Open is the biggest thing that you can win in Spain and you really want to do well. We have a great field this year and a great golf course.
“I also think that the Spanish Federation is doing an excellent job with the tournament. They are putting a lot into it and are moving it around some of the best courses in Spain. If they can continue that, then the Open de España can be one of the best tournaments in Europe in a few years time.
“For me to win there, it would be my biggest achievement. It’s a massive tournament for the Spanish players – it’s something that I would love to have on my CV.”
Castaño was quick to point out that the players who competed in The European Tour Qualifying School – Final Stage at the PGA Golf de Catalunya last November will have an advantage over the rest of the field having played the Stadium Course so recently, and no-one more so than Sweden’s Oskar Henningsson who dominated the Qualifying School last season with a four shot victory.
“I played really well that week at the Qualifying School – I remember it was fairly easy although I don’t think the other players felt that way!” said Henningsson, who showed encouraging signs of a return to his form with a top 50 finish in Korea last week.
“It's a course that suits my game because you have to play really well with your irons and that's usually a strong part of my game. I hope it’s going to be another great week.”
While Henningsson has an intimate knowledge of this week’s venue, the defending champion, oddly enough, does not know the course at all.
Lawrie won the Open de España at the Real Club de Golf de Seville last year so will find a new challenge as he attempts to defend his maiden European Tour title. The Irishman took the title last year after a sudden-death play-off with Ignacio Garrido and believes he has found some good form after a share of eighth place in last week’s Ballantine’s Championship.
“It was nice to play well in Korea, said Lawrie. “The same thing happened last year before I won. I missed the cut in the Volvo China Open, I finished tied for ninth in the BMW Asian Open and I won the next week. The game is coming around, so hopefully see what happens next week.
“Winning last year gave me a lot of confidence, I have to admit. I've been out here a long time, played Challenge Tour for a good few years and after a while, you wonder if you are ever going to win anything – it felt a bit like doing the lottery for 40 years! But thankfully I had won last year, because it opens a few doors and does boost the confidence.”