Thursday, 02 February 2012
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano  (Getty Images)
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Getty Images)
Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño overcame a desert storm to grab the lead away from American John Daly on the opening day of the Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy in Doha.

Fernandez-Castaño birdied the last three holes to deny 45 year old Daly - 543rd in the Official World Golf Ranking - the overnight lead in the second leg of The European Tour's Middle East swing.

The desert storm was such that many players wore sunglasses to try to limit the amount of sand blowing into their eyes on what Daly called a "brutal" day.

Defending champion Thomas Björn posted a 79 and fellow stars Ross Fisher and Henrik Stenson both failed to break 80, but Lee Westwood kept his hopes alive with a 71.

Fernandez-Castaño could well take over top spot from Rory McIlroy in the race for Ryder Cup places if he wins this weekend and the 31 year old from Madrid almost defied belief by grabbing nine birdies in all.

"I would have taken level par," said the man who last year missed the cut in next-to-last place with two rounds of 78 and then was out of action for almost six months with a back injury.

He added: "We couldn't see the ball landing on the fairways and I just tried to keep it as low as possible.

"I think I just got lucky and holed some important putts. Putting is the most difficult thing on a windy day."

Daly's last victory was eight years ago, and he no longer has a US PGA Tour card.

It was in a strong wind that he won the 1995 Open Championship at St Andrews, but he did not expect this.

"I'm pretty shocked," Daly said after keeping a bogey off his card.

"I had five and a half weeks off and really didn't touch a club much.

"It's one of the best rounds I've ever played in a wind like that. You feel like you are eating a lot of sand."

Only nine of the 132 players broke 70, with Korean K J Choi and Australian Jason Day shooting 68 and England's Richard Finch and Danny Willett, Scot Paul Lawrie, Swede Peter Hanson and Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts being one further back.

Lawrie, whose win in the event in 1999 was followed by his Open Championship triumph that summer, said: "I've sand in places I didn't know I had places."

Graeme McDowell won his duel with American Hunter Mahan - opponents in the decisive singles match at The Celtic Manor Resort two years ago - but 73 and 74 kept them both in the pack.

Ryder Cup Captain José María Olazábal, who turns 46 on Sunday, reached five under, but bogeyed four of the last seven holes, while fellow Spaniard Alvaro Quiros - first, second and second the last three years - dropped three shots in his last two holes for a 72.

Sergio Garcia's bogey-bogey finish left him on the same score, but World Number Four Martin Kaymer hit back from missing the cut in his Abu Dhabi title defence last week with a 71.

Fisher, now out of the world's top 100 two years after being part of The Ryder Cup side, did not have a single birdie in his 81, while Stenson's 82 included a triple bogey eight on the ninth.

And the bad news for the entire field is that the wind is expected to be even stronger for the second round.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1LAWRIE, PaulSCO18-15
T2DAY, JasonAUS18-11
T2HANSON, PeterSWE18-11
4DALY, JohnUSA18-9
T5GONNET, Jean-BaptisteFRA18-8
T5HANSEN, SorenDEN18-8

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