Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño (Getty Images)
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño held off the challenge of Garth Mulroy to win the BMW Italian Open presented by CartaSi by two shots.
The final pairing were neck-and-neck for much of the final round, but Mulroy’s 5-5 finish ultimately proved decisive at Royal Park I Roveri as Fernandez-Castaño finished with an eight under par 64 for a 24 under par total.
The result was the perfect boost for the 31 year old after he narrowly failed to qualify for José María Olazábal’s Ryder Cup Team.
"Not making the Ryder Cup was disappointing,” he said. “I had a victory, two second-placed finishes and one third, and it hasn't been good enough. It's tough.
"You have to play well in the big events, and that's what I didn't do this year unfortunately. I have talked to Olly about The Ryder Cup many, many times. I can laugh about it now, but it hasn't been easy.
"I just needed to believe in myself and put The Ryder Cup out of my head, which I've done this week. I changed my schedule a little - I normally travel on a Tuesday but I arrived here on Wednesday, mainly because I wanted to see the kids start school.
"It was a completely different frame of mind for the week. I didn't know the course, so everything was new to me. I just followed my caddie's instructions and it worked. The main thing was my attitude. I didn't get to frustrated out there or try too hard. I just let it happen.”
Fernandez-Castaño birdied the first to draw level but when Mulroy birdied the fourth and fifth the Spaniard was two behind.
Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts briefly took over the lead, holing a four foot eagle putt after a magnificent approach to the par five eighth as South African Mulroy bogeyed the sixth.
While Colsaerts stumbled on the back nine it became a two-horse race - Fernandez-Castaño birdieing four holes in a row around the turn to take the lead with Mulroy’s gains at the eighth and tenth keeping him one behind.
Mulroy holed birdie putts of between ten and 20 feet at the 12th, 13th and 14th, and when Fernandez-Castaño only followed the first two in the pair were level again and seemed to be heading for a play-off.
However, the contest turned decisively when Mulroy’s approach to the 17th landed on the downslope in a greenside bunker and he could only chip out to the fringe on the far side.
Fernandez-Castaño parred to go one ahead, then birdied the par five last as Mulroy found more trouble in the sand with his second.
It was Fernandez-Castaño’s sixth European Tour victory, and afterwards he was delighted to have overcome his resilient challenger.
“It felt like match play out there and I'm delighted to have come out on top,” said the 2007 winner. “It feels very special to win this tournament again.
"I thought maybe 22 under par would have been good enough, but the way Garth and I were playing it was crazy. We kept holing putt after putt and it had a match play feel, which was fun. I have to congratulate him because he has played great. We had a great battle.”
Mulroy’s 67 was enough to finish two shots clear in second, with Gregory Bourdy and home favourite Matteo Manassero sharing third after matching 65s.
"I played well, but Gonzo's putter was a little hot for me today,” said Mulroy. “We were making birdie after birdie and it was fun. The 17th got me in the end there, but I'm happy and I played well.
"He went through a seven hole stretch where he made six birdies. It forces the other player to make birdies too. The last two days have been very fun.”
Colsaerts finished in a share of fifth with Medinah-bound teammate Martin Kaymer, Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal and England’s Gary Boyd - who produced the shot of the day when he holed his six iron second to the eighth for an albatross.
“I feel pretty good,” said Colsaerts. “I had a fantastic start which was just what I wanted - to go deep under par after only a few holes. Two bad swings broke my momentum, and on a course like this where everyone makes birdies everywhere, momentum is very important and it feels like you're losing ground. But I finished well again, which was what I wanted.
"It helps being able to go through the week in a very cool, calm way, without thinking about qualifying for The Ryder Cup. My goal was to play these two events and to keep going, keep playing and keep the good dynamic I've had all year.
"I wish I could've done a little better here, but it's fulfilled the goal of continuing to play well before going to Medinah. I have a lot of good vibes."
Boyd’s spectacular round of 63 propels him into the top 115 on The Race to Dubai, and serves as a timely boost to his hopes of keeping his card.
"That's probably the best I've ever played in my career,” he said. “It was a nice start and then I really got the round going with an albatross at the eighth. At that point I was thinking that maybe I was back in the tournament with a chance to win.
"There's a lot of pressure at this time of year and to have practically got over the line this week, with still a few tournaments to go, is a good feeling."