Castano Drives to Glory at Bmw Asian Open

Sun 23 Apr 2006

Castano Drives to Glory at Bmw Asian Open

Shanghai, April 23: New Spanish sensation Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano was in seventh heaven after a play-off triumph over Henrik Stenson of Sweden at the US$1.8 million BMW Asian Open on Sunday.

It was the best win yet of the young Castano's career when he walked home with the winner's cheque of US$300,000 after producing an impressive display in the final round in front of record crowds at Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club.

Castono and Stenson finished tied at seven-under-par 281 after rounds of 70 and 71 respectively in the event jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour. In the play-off on the 18th hole, Castono sealed victory with a superb chip for a tap-in birdie while Stenson two-putted for par.

“Winning the title is a great thing but when you see the leaderboard and look at all the players that I beat, it is unbelievable, a dream come true,” said the new champion. “When I teed off this morning, I went out there and tried to have fun and that is what I did, I played my typical Spanish golf and it worked.”

Castano, who grew up adoring Spanish legend Severiano Ballesteros, charged ahead when he chipped in a massive 40 feet birdie attempt on the 16th hole which would have won the approval of his mentor. The tide turned in his favour as Stenson bogeyed the same hole although the Swede, ranked 15th in the world, forced a play-off with a gutsy birdie on the 18th.

“The 16th was tricky. It was about 40 feet but it was a tricky one with the bunker in front and it was a downslope and the water at the back. The ball was in a downslope too but it was one of those shots that when you hit it you know it is going to be good – not that good maybe but I knew it was going to be close. It was probably one of the best shots of my life,” said Castano, last year's European rookie of the year.

It was a disappointing end for Stenson who led the tournament from day one. The Swede seemed to be cruising home when he pulled away from the chasing pack. He fired three consecutive birdies on the sixth, seventh and eighth holes and opened up a three-stroke lead. But tragedy struck when he triple-bogeyed the par five ninth hole.

“I just pulled my driver left and had a pretty narrow gap where I could not swing properly,” lamented Stenson.

“I hit straight onto a tree and it went over my head and over on the other side of the fairway and into the water hazard. I had to take a drop and played it forward and had a bit of a bad yardage and missed the approach to the green and then afterwards three putted. A lot of bad things happened at the same time really.

“If you get three straight birdies and you take a triple bogey, it’s not going to put you in a better position. But I am happy with the way I performed. I had a lot of good iron shots into the greens but I didn’t hit too many fairways and you’re always struggling when you don’t make the fairways.”

Portugal’s Jose Filipe Lima fired a 68 to finish tied third alongside Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, an eight-time European Order of Merit winner, who climbed up the leaderboard by matching Lima's score.

After a mighty move up yesterday, Mahal Pearce’s chance of a win faded when the New Zealander, an Asian Tour regular, bogeyed the 13th hole and missed an easy putt at the 14th hole as he finished tied fifth on 283 alongside English duo Simon Dyson and Paul Casey.

Aussie ace Terry Pilkadaris, last season’s Brunei Open champion, struck the lowest round of the week with a sparkling 65 for tied eighth position. “I hit some solid shots and capitalised on my opportunities,” said Pilkadaris.

“Obviously the rain on Friday softened the greens a little bit and today we could hit the ball closer to the flag,” he said.

Korea’s Charlie Wi, the Maybank Malaysian Open winner, finished tied 13th on 287 alongside Thai ace Thaworn Wiratchant who struck a 71. “Today the conditions were better. Yesterday I did not wear enough clothing and today I was sweating in these long sleeves. The last two weeks have been really cold so the warm is really good,” said Wi, who also signed off with a 71.

Over 12,000 fans visited the final day of the BMW Asian Open, many whom were experiencing their first European and Asian Tour event. Besides watching the drama unfold, many spectators also flocked to the Public Village which included a display of BMW cars, the UBS Game Improvement Zone, the Emirates Hole in One Challenge, mini golf and the BMW Children Safety Park

“China is one of the most important markets for BMW and the growth rate of golf in China has been extraordinary,” said Jochen Goller, General Manager Marketing for BMW Group Region China. “Given these two aspects, the chances are very high that we will have the 2007 tournament in China.”

The BMW Asian Open was first held in Chinese Taipei in 2001 and 2002. Since 2004, it has been held in Shanghai at the Tomsom Shanghai Pudong Golf Club

Leading final round scores

281 - Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (ESP) 71-71-69-70, Henrik Stenson (SWE) 67-72-71-71

(Castono won the title with a birdie on the first hole of a sudden-death play-off)

282 - Jose-Filipe Lima (POR) 71-70-73-68, Colin Montgomerie (SCO) 69-74-71-68

283 - Simon Dyson (ENG) 72-71-72-68, Paul Casey (ENG) 72-71-69-71, Mahal Pearce (NZL) 72-72-68-71

285 - Terry Pilkadaris (AUS) 73-73-74-65, David Bransdon (AUS) 72-74-73-66, Paul Lawrie (SCO) 70-70-73-72, Peter O'Malley (AUS) 73-70-69-73

286 - Barry Lane (ENG) 74-71-72-69

287 - Brett Rumford (AUS) 75-70-75-67, Steven Jeppesen (SWE) 73-73-72-69, Christian Cevaer (FRA) 73-72-73-69, Ignacio Garrido (ESP) 75-71-71-70, Charlie Wi (KOR) 69-73-74-71, Peter Lawrie (IRL) 69-72-75-71, Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 73-70-73-71, Graeme Storm (ENG) 74-69-72-72