Fernandez-Castano shoots 64 to take the lead at Loch Lomond

By Doug Ferguson, AP
Saturday, July 11, 2009

Spaniard takes the lead in Scottish Open

LUSS, Scotland — Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano lost his dog, then he lost his swing. He only found one of them Saturday in the Scottish Open, where he had a 7-under 64 to build a one-shot lead going into the final round at Loch Lomond.

Fernandez-Castano couldn’t figure out which way the ball was going as he warmed up on another postcard day along the banks of Loch Lomond. Then he opened with three straight birdies, which usually is a good way to restore confidence.

He finished at 14-under 199, one shot clear of Martin Kaymer (66) and Retief Goosen (69).

“It’s a funny game,” Fernandez-Castano said. “This morning on the driving range, I couldn’t hit a shot. And then you go out there and you play the best golf of your life.”

Meanwhile, his black Sharpei remains missing along the southern coast of Spain.

Fernandez-Castano received the news Friday morning from his wife, who was in tears, and it rattled him. He figured his strong play would bring enough attention in Marbella for someone to find his dog, named Petra. He might even offer an award.

“Not tomorrow’s check, that’s for sure,” he said of the 500,000 pounds that goes to the winner. “But anything to see my wife happy and smiling again.”

Asked if would rather win the tournament or find the dog, the affable Spaniard smiled.

“Believe it or not … find the dog,” he said.

Neither task figures to be easy.

Kaymer, coming off a playoff victory last week in France, also played bogey-free on another good day for scoring. His 66 was enough to put him in the final group with Fernandez-Castano.

Goosen had a three-shot lead at the turn, then lost command of the tournament with a shaky start to the back nine. He pulled his tee shot on the 10th hole and had to play off the downward slope of a mound that caused him to miss the green well to the right. And when he figured to regain the lead on the par-5 13th, he hooked his tee shot and never found it, lucky to drop only one shot.

When he finished his 69, he figured he was just as lucky to still have a chance.

“I had a few bad shots, which cost me, but happy where I am,” Goosen said. “One shot off the lead, it’s not a bad place to be going into the final round.”

Goosen spent the first half of his day holding off Adam Scott, until the Australian fell back with a sloppy sequence of events. He hit one tee shot deep into the woods for a bogey at No. 10. He three-putted from 25 feet for double bogey on the 12th, then drove into a hazard on the par-5 13th. Scott had a 73, and was seven shots behind.

Fernandez-Castano has won every season on the European Tour since he joined five years ago. He is not nervous about being in the lead, only about the guys chasing him.

“You have to see the names behind me right now, and it’s quite scary,” he said.

Jamie Donaldson (65) and Soren Kjeldsen (67) were at 11-under 202, with a well-rested Lee Westwood (64) only four shots behind. Westwood nearly withdrew Thursday with a chest infection, saying it was “stupid” to play with the British Open next week. Medicine took care of the infection, and he got 15 hours of sleep on Friday, which made all the difference.

Westwood shot 66 on Friday, hitting the ball so pure his caddie said it reminded him of Nick Price, then followed that with nine birdies through his opening 12 holes. He was 8 under for the round and thinking about a 59, until hitting his tee shot into a bunker on the 13th.

“Just the sort of golf I’ve been playing tee-to-green,” Westwood said, growing confident by the day.

Fernandez-Castano wasn’t hitting it close to anything on the range, with one 5-iron that was 80 yards off target. He chose to concentrate on his rhythm, and relied on punch shots to get him into the flow of the round. That happened quickly with three straight birdies, a 32 on his front nine, and three more birdies on the back to work his way to the top of the leaderboard.

Even with the stress of a missing dog and a missing swing, he was able to soak in the splendid views accompanied by sunshine that has graced Scotland most of the week.

“I can’t think of a better place in the world to play golf when the weather is like this,” he said.

The forecast for Sunday is rain.

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