Masters 2012: Fernandez-Castano’s debut aimsMarch, 2012
We talk to Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano as he prepares for his Masters bow
THE Spaniard has been a firm feature of the European Tour since picking up the Rookie of the Year in 2005.
The wins kept coming; in May 2009 he cracked the world’s top 50 for the first time and his company, GFC Golf and Business, promotes the Andalucia Open and Madrid Masters.
But a back injury saw him miss the first three cuts of last year and he then took six months off by which time he was down to 188th on the rankings.
The 31-year-old’s finish to the year was one of the stories of 2011 – 6th in Madrid, 2nd in Castello and then a fifth victory in Singapore courtesy of a second-round 61 and a play-off win over Juvic Pagunsan.
The next week he was runner-up in Japan to end the year back in the top 50 and in the field for Augusta.
Were you aware that a win in Singapore would get you on to the fringes of Augusta?
Not really, I did not pay that much attention to the rankings at the time. Having been injured most of the year I knew I was lost in the rankings.
So of course it was fantastic when I saw I had a chance of getting to Augusta. I then played well in Japan at the Dunlop Phoenix and that got me in.
It was something amazing because, as I said, earlier in the year I did not expect to play in Augusta. It was the icing on the cake.
How strong does your back feel now?
I would not say it feels strong but it definitely feels better.
I was talking to my caddy on the practice ground in Abu Dhabi and you could see, last year I could barely walk when I was playing there.
I had to buy a stroller just to be able to stand, standing for longer periods of time were impossible.
So it took me a while to recover and I am of course watching very carefully what I am doing in the gym and all of the exercises, always taking care of my lower back, which was the problem at the time.
Was there a point where you thought you might never get back on tour?
Yes, at some stage I was a bit frustrated because doctors could not really tell me what was going on and of course I was not feeling any better at all.
So yes, there were stages when we were not really sure, not if I was going to be back on tour, because I was sure at some stage I was going to get better.
But I was afraid that my golf wasn’t going to be as good as it was before. So it was a bit scary at times but thank God everything went fine at the end.
I spoke to a friend who said why don’t you try Sergio’s grip? I said why not. It felt so weird for the first couple of balls and all of a sudden balls started to go into the hole. How many putting grips/actions have you tried in recent years?
That’s a very good question (laughs). A lot! And all of a sudden the very last one I would have thought would work is the one that got me on the winning streak again.
So it was very nice. I played lovely from tee to green in the Czech Republic but my putting was horrendous; I could hardly take my putter back.
So I spoke to a friend who said why don’t you try Sergio’s grip? I said why not. It felt so weird for the first couple of balls and all of a sudden balls started to go into the hole. I don’t know how long it will last.
Who will you play practice rounds with at Augusta?
Olabazal. He is the man. As soon as I qualified for Augusta I gave him a call and said Olly, I am going to be like your shadow in Augusta.
So every time you book a tee time, just put my name by your side because I want to know all the secrets and there is no other player I could get that advice from.
Will you go to Augusta before to ease the ‘wow’ factor?
The plan is to get there on the Saturday before. Apparently they are able to change the course so much from tournament week to any other week that I don’t know if it is worth going beforehand.
I am trying to play a bit more in the States so, if I get a week when I don’t know what to do, I might go. That would be nice, to play Augusta on your own with nobody else there.
How do you think it will suit your game?
I don’t know. There are definitely a few holes where I know you need to draw the ball.
That is not my strongest point. But it’s a course where you need to be patient and strategy is really important. And I think I am good at that.
I think it was Fuzzy Zoeller who has won on his first appearance. Who knows, maybe I am the next?
What would be a good finish?
Every time I play I try to win. But of course being realistic, I would say a top-10 would be fantastic, to help me get there next year.
Even though I hope to be there next year as part of the top 50 again next year. Just to play four days at Augusta would be nice.
What is your most vivid memory of the Masters?
Unfortunately I did not see any of Seve’s wins. I don’t know if I was too young, or if they did not broadcast it live. But I do remember the two wins of Olabazal and those were amazing.
Especially the second one, beating Greg Norman, especially after coming back from the injuries. That was always a very special moment for Spanish golf.