Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Getty Images)
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño will take a three shot lead into the final day of the Barclays Singapore Open as further weather interruptions forced tournament organisers to reduce the event to 54 holes.
The Spaniard – troubled by a back injury for much of the year and down at 194th in the Official World Golf Ranking just two months ago – completed a second round 61 before lightning forced players off the course.
At 15 under par the four-time European Tour winner is three ahead of first round leaders Edoardo Molinari and James Morrison – the latter not hitting a single ball on day three.
“I have been buzzing all day,” said the 26 year old Englishman. “I just want to get out there. We just have to look at this as a chance to have a great final day on a great course.
“The guys on around four under and below are probably out of it now that there is only 18 holes to play, so it is probably between less than 20 guys now and I am glad I am one of them.”
Resuming two behind Morrison and with the back nine of the easier Tanjong layout to play, Fernandez-Castaño reeled off five unanswered birdies to forge a healthy advantage with a round to go.
After missing three straight cuts in the Middle East at the start of the season, the 31 year old sought treatment for a back problem, returning in July only to miss the cut in Ireland.
He picked up cheques in the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Austria, but it was a return to Spanish soil that rejuvenated the former British Masters winner.
A sixth place finish at his home Bankia Madrid Masters was followed with a second place at the Castelló Masters, which secured his European Tour card for next year and propelled him to 126th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
But he now has a fantastic opportunity to complete the comeback with a fifth European Tour title, which would also earn him a place in the field for the Dubai World Championship presented by DP: World.
“Six months ago I didn’t know what was going on with my back injury and to be honest I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to play again,” he revealed. “So after spending six months on the bench I am very proud of the way I have been able to come back.
“It has certainly been a long day. It started pretty good for me but then I have been waiting around all day like everyone else and that is not what you want.
“I have been playing well recently – sixth in Madrid, second in Castellon and12th in Valderrama. So it’s very good at the moment and my swing has been getting better and better as the weeks have passed. And there has been a massive difference with my putting - that’s what makes the real difference at this level.
“It’s a shame that the tournament has to be reduced to 54 holes. It’s good for me to be leading after 36, but I don’t think that’s what anyone wants - players, sponsors, officials, spectators, Sentosa - everyone would rather be playing 72 holes.
“It’s a real shame as I say. Barclays are an amazing sponsor and this is one of the best tournaments on the schedule and you don’t like to see this happening, but there is nothing we can do about the weather.
“There is a long way to go with 18 holes tomorrow and there are some great players just behind me on the leaderboard. It’s going to be a tough day so I have to go out there and play my own game and see what happens.”
Tournament Director Mike Stewart revealed over 50 millimetres of rain, combined with the ongoing threat of lightning, had left little choice but to reduce the tournament to three rounds.
“The biggest problem has been the lightning activity in the area which has made it too dangerous to be on the golf course and that is continuing as we speak,” he said. “We have taken the decision to have no further play today. We have not got any time remaining today to get everything ready.
“We will bring the players back in the morning for a restart at 7.30am to continue the third round, which will be the final round. The event has been reduced to 54 holes.
“Weather permitting we will be able to conclude early tomorrow afternoon. Our cut off point for having any chance of playing 72 holes was to get them on the golf course by 5 o’clock this afternoon. Once we could not do this there was no real opportunity to complete 72 holes.
“If we cannot complete tomorrow then we are more than likely to come back on Monday morning. All being well we anticipate the final putt being around 2pm tomorrow.
“This gives us four and half hours of playing time if we have any disruptions. The European Tour will count this as a full win and full ranking event regardless of how many holes have been played.”
Italian Ryder Cup star Molinari played the last eight holes of his second round in one under par to join Morrison in second, while fourth place Juvic Pagunsan has five shots to make up on the final day.