Brilliant Garcia romps to victory

23/10/2011 15:56:53
Sergio Garcia  (Getty Images)
Sergio Garcia (Getty Images)
Sergio Garcia dedicated victory to the late Seve Ballesteros as he turned the final round of the Castelló Masters into a victory procession.

The 31 year old Spaniard shot a closing 63 to blow away the field at the Club de Campo del Mediterráneo and finish an astonishing 27 under par – 11 shots ahead of the rest.

It was the joint-third largest victory margin in European Tour history and confirmed the Ryder Cup star’s return to form as he claimed his first title for almost three years.

Already eight clear with a round to go, Garcia’s 63 was his second of the week and with a 64 in between he beat the previous biggest winning margin of the European Tour season by three.

There have been only two bigger in the history of The European Tour - Tiger Woods won the 2000 US Open Championship by 15 and Ernie Els the 2005 Asian Open by 13 - while the only player to finish more under par was Els, 29 under at the 2003 Johnnie Walker Classic.

On a day of spectacular scoring compatriot Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño was second after a 64 - he bogeyed the final two holes for that - and joint third were Swede Alex Noren (also 64) and Scot Richie Ramsay (65) on 15 under.

"That was for Seve," said Garcia after winning on the Castellón course where he first won the club championship when he was just 12.

One over par after ten holes of his first round, Garcia was brilliant from then on, and from the moment he claimed the halfway lead never looked like being caught on his first appearance in Spain since Ballesteros died of brain cancer in May.

Although the performance will not enter the official record books because placing on the fairways was allowed all week, it has been beaten only once on the European Tour. Ernie Els was 29 under in winning the 2003 Johnnie Walker Classic.

As for his own career, none of his previous 18 wins as a professional had been by more than four strokes.

Second in the Official World Golf Ranking when he won the 2008 HSBC Champions, Garcia slipped to outside the top 75 as his form deserted him, but is now inside the top 35 again.

And he moves into the top 15 of The Race to Dubai who will split the $7,500,000 bonus pool at the end of the season.

Tired after a long stint in America, Garcia took four weeks off before the tournament and said: "They were mother's milk for me - obviously they worked.

"It's hard to say that you expect to fire like I did, but I was feeling good and I've been improving all year."

So he has. He had top-12 finishes in the last three Majors and lost a five-hole play-off to compatriot Pablo Larrazabal at the BMW International Open in Munich in June.

It was another Spaniard who came runner-up to him this time. Fernandez-Castaño, out of action for much of the season with back trouble, had a 64 to take second place on 16 under.

The field all knew teeing off that they were probably playing for second place.

“I’m very happy with my result,” said Fernandez-Castaño. “I knew that reaching Sergio was going to be complicated and my goal was to be second so I could secure my card for next year. I made it so I’m very happy.

“When I started off so well I thought I could put pressure on Sergio but I saw that he was doing the same thing so I concentrated on being second. When such a good friend wins, you feel very happy for him”

Even though Fernandez-Castaño went to the turn in a best-of-the-week 29 with an eagle and five birdies, Garcia had resumed eight in front.

And, with birdies of his own at the fourth, fifth, eighth and ninth, he was cruising.

The former Ryder Cup star, who has to be fancied for a return to the side after this, started for home with two more, then picked up further shots at the 14th and 15th.

His one error came when he failed to get up and down from sand on the 17th, but his approach to the 424 yard last almost went in for eagle.

"I would like to thank not only my family and friends, but also my sponsors, everyone that's around me, for supporting me through two tough years," he said.

"They have stuck with me and believed in me and I'm happy to be able to pay them back with this victory.

"At the beginning of the week there's always a little extra pressure because you want to do well in front of your home fans and on your home course.

"But I felt really good and it showed. Hopefully I can keep moving forward, but there are still some things I can improve on."