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Fernandez-Castano back on course after emotional Singapore triumph

updated 8:29 AM EST, Mon November 14, 2011
Spanish golfer Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano ended a three-year title wait as he completed a comeback from long-term injury.
Spanish golfer Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano ended a three-year title wait as he completed a comeback from long-term injury.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano beats Juvic Pagunsan to win the Singapore Open
  • Tournament reduced to three rounds and forced into extra day due to lightning storms
  • The win is Fernandez-Castano's first on the European Tour since British Masters in 2008
  • Spaniard climbs to 58th in world rankings and 15th on Race To Dubai money list

(CNN) -- Earlier this year, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano wondered if he would ever play golf again. On Monday the Spaniard celebrated a playoff victory at the Singapore Open and his first professional title in over three years.

The 31-year-old defeated Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines on the second playoff hole of a tournament which had been reduced to three rounds and forced into an additional day by lightning storms.

Both men had finished 14 under par through 54 holes, with Fernandez-Castano surrendering a four-shot lead to Pagunsan over the back nine of Sunday's final round at the Sentosa Golf Club.

But Fernandez-Castano regrouped to clinch a first win since the 2008 British Masters with a nine-foot birdie putt at the par-five 18th hole, sealing a triumph which few would have predicted earlier this season.

He missed three successive cuts at the start of 2011, and six months on the sidelines with a back injury left him with earnings of less than €50,000 ($70,000) at the end of September.

"I did not know if I would be fit again," he told the European Tour's official website after rising to 15th in the Race To Dubai standings, and leaping 68 places to 58th in the world rankings.

"I was close to getting back surgery. If you have any back problems, let me know because I know all the back doctors!"

As well as helping to erase memories of a difficult recent past, Fernandez-Castano's win in Singapore also helped to safeguard his immediate future, with a place on the European Tour now secured for the next two years.

"My main goal was to get fit and see if I was able to play again," he said. "After that my main worry was being able to play how I used to, but the first couple of months were tough.

I was close to getting back surgery. If you have any back problems let me know because I know all the back doctors!
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano

"It's down to my family and friends and my wife. In the six months I am sure I was a bit of a pain. For her it was hard, not being on the golf course and complaining for sixth months, so all credit goes to her."

His recent form -- second at the Castello Masters and tied for 12th in Andalucia -- has rocketed his season's earnings up to €1.06 million ($1,457,315) and put him in second place on Europe's Ryder Cup points list.

"It was never in my mind about the Ryder Cup points," he said. "I just wanted to come back from my injury and play well again. What I did until this week was pretty amazing and winning the title is unbelievable."

The 2005 European Tour Rookie of the Year praised his caddy after a difficult end to Sunday's final round.

"He has been amazing and stuck with me. He was calling me on a weekly basis during my injury and he said not to worry and he would be there waiting for me. The job he did yesterday supporting me was amazing," Fernandez-Castano said.

"It has been a great relief, especially the way I played yesterday -- having a four-shot lead and spoiling it all. It has been a tough year and I got a monkey off my back. It has been three years without a victory and it means a lot to me."

Pagunsan missed his shot at a breakthrough European Tour victory with a wayward birdie putt at the first additional hole.

His disappointment was tempered by the fact that his performance has seen him move to the top of the Asian Tour money list after taking home €480,000 ($655,000) -- and climb from 492nd to 177th in the world rankings.

"It was very close -- I thought I was going to make my first putt (on the first play-off hole)," the 33-year-old said.

"I had big confidence I was going to win. Unfortunately I missed the first putt -- I thought to myself, 'This is my big chance to win,' but I missed it. But I am still a big winner in myself."

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