Monday, 14 November 2011
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano   (Getty Images)
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Getty Images)
Six months ago there were serious doubts as to whether Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño would play golf again.

Plagued by a back injury that saw him miss three consecutive cuts at the start of the year before forcing him to the sidelines for six months, there were still questions over his European Tour future as recently as six weeks ago.

With less than €50,000 banked by the end of September, time was running out for the 31 year old Spaniard to climb into the top 115 on The Race to Dubai.

Three productive weeks on home soil ended any immediate concerns, and the comeback is now complete after his play-off victory over Juvic Pagunsan in the Barclays Singapore Open.

“I did not know if I would be fit again,” he revealed. “I was close to getting back surgery. If you have any back problems let me know because I know all the back doctors! 

“My main goal was to get fit and see if I was able to play again. After that my main worry was being able to play how I used to, but the first couple of months were tough. 

“I could see how my game was improving and last month was amazing - sixth in Madrid, second in Castellon, 12th in Valderrama and winning here.

“It’s down to my family and friends and my wife. In the six months I am sure I was a bit of a pain. For her it was hard, not being on the golf course and complaining for sixth months, so all credit goes to her.

“One person I want to thank is my caddie. He has been amazing and stuck with me. He was calling me on a weekly basis during my injury and he said not to worry and he would be there waiting for me. The job he did yesterday supporting me was amazing.”

After three days affected by storm delays, Fernandez-Castaño and Pagunsan of the Philippines returned to Sentosa Golf Club to complete extra holes – both men finishing 14 under par after 54 holes.

And despite seeing a four shot lead evaporate over the back nine in regulation play, it was Fernandez-Castaño who kept his nerve to birdie the 18th at the second time of asking and land a fifth European Tour title.

Not only have injuries disrupted the likeable Spaniard’s game in recent years – he has had six runner-up finishes since his last win at the 2008 British Masters and undergone several changes to try and cure some serious woes with the putter.

A claw grip seems to be paying dividends, helping him finish sixth, second and 12th in Spain last month, and his progress was highlighted by the 20 foot curler he holed on the final green in regulation to force the play-off.

And with his success over the Serapong layout, Fernandez-Castaño is now up to 58th in the Official World Golf Ranking, having been 188th three months ago

“It has been a great relief, especially the way I played yesterday - having a four shot lead and spoiling it all,” he said. “It has been a tough year and I got a monkey off my back. It has been three years without a victory and it means a lot to me.

“Putting is probably my Achilles tendon but I think it has improved a lot. But in the heat of the battle, it’s a different story.”

Fernandez-Castaño’s display also takes him second in the European Ryder Cup points table, but the former Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year insists there is a long way to go to secure a place on the plane to Chicago next year.

“It was never in my mind about The Ryder Cup points,” he added. “I just wanted to come back from my injury and play well again. What I did until this week was pretty amazing and winning the title is unbelievable.”

Pagunsan’s best chance came when he pitched to eight feet at the first play-off hole, but although that missed birdie putt ultimately proved costly, he can console himself with the fact he now leads the Asian Tour Order of Merit. 

“It was very close - I thought I was going to make my first putt [on the first play-off hole],” he said.

“I had big confidence I was going to win. Unfortunately I missed the first putt - I thought to myself ‘this is my big chance to win’, but I missed it. But I am still a big winner in myself.”

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1FDEZ-CASTAÑO, GonzaloESP18-14
2PAGUNSAN, JuvicPHI18-14
T3KIM, AnthonyUSA18-13
T5LUITEN, JoostNED18-12
T5LEE, DannyNZL18-12
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