SHANGHAI – Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano called it the perfect win, even though his final hole Sunday to win the European Tour’s $7 million BMW Masters was anything but perfect.
Fernandez-Castano chipped in from across the green for birdie on the tough 17th hole at Lake Malaren to build a three-shot lead. Then, he let memories of Jean Van de Velde's collapse creep into his head, and only when the 33-year-old Spaniard holed a 2-foot putt for double bogey did he exhale.
"I made it a little more complicated," Fernandez-Castano said.
He still closed with a 4-under 68 for a one-shot win over Francesco Molinari (64) and Thongchai Jaidee (66). Luke Guthrie, the 23-year-old American playing in Asia for the first time, didn't make a birdie until the 13th hole and closed with a 71 to finish alone in fourth, two shots behind.
Fernandez-Castano gave Spain its first European Tour win this year, extending the streak to 20 years of at least one Spanish victory.
But this was more for him than country.
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The victory gets Fernandez-Castano into the HSBC Champions next week in Shanghai, critical for him to stay in the hunt for the Race to Dubai. He moved up from No. 35 to No. 4 in the standings, and the World Golf Championship offers $8.5 million in prize money.
He won 851,346 euros at the BMW Masters, putting him well ahead on the European Points portion of the Ryder Cup standings.
It also puts him into the top 50 in the world, which is critical for the Spaniard as he embarks on his first full season on the PGA Tour. He will get in at least two WGCs, and staying in the top 50 would get him into the majors. Fernandez-Castano is moving his family to Miami in December.
"Just at the perfect time," he said. "There's never a bad time for a victory, let's put it that way. But this has been just the perfect one."
Lake Malaren was set up for low scoring, with only a mild wind and several tees moved forward. Defending champion Peter Hanson had the low round of the tournament, making bogey on the last hole and still posting a 63.
Molinari played the final six holes in 6 under, including an eagle on the 13th hole, and he was tied for the lead at one point.
Everyone seemed to take advantage except the last two groups, setting up endless possibilities. Fernandez-Castano started to seize control with a wedge into 3 feet for birdie on the par-5 seventh, and another wedge to short range for birdie on the next hole.
That gave him a two-shot lead, and he kept his distance from Guthrie by matching the American's birdies on the two par 5s on the back. The chip-in for birdie on the 17th, a hole that Hanson described as the toughest in the final round, sealed the victory.
At least that's how it looked.
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Fernandez-Castano felt a little too comfortable, deciding to play it so conservatively down the 18th hole that it nearly cost him. His tee shot cleared the water and went into a bunker, and he blasted out some 30 yards to avoid a bad shot that might hit the lip. That left him 168 yards for his third shot, and he aimed so far away from water and the flag that he wound up in another bunker.
"The only thing I was thinking about on the 18th was Jean Van de Velde," he said, referring to the Frenchman who made triple bogey on the final hole of the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie and lost in a playoff. "There's so many things that go through your mind. Jean is a good friend of mind. I don't know, I just didn't want to mess up, and I almost did. It's a weird feeling. I'm not used to have a three-shot advantage when I'm playing such a big tournament like this."
His bunker shot by the green was his best on the final hole, leaving him two putts from 8 feet for the win. He looked tentative on the first putt, and it rolled 2 feet away, just enough to make him nervous.
That was more drama than he needed, though Fernandez-Castano still managed to win for the seventh time in his career.
Peter Uihlein made four birdies on the back nine for a 67 that gave him a share of fifth place with Thomas Bjorn, keeping both of them in the top 10 on the European Tour money list with two more events before the $8 million DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
Henrik Stenson, who went into The Final Series with a healthy lead over Graeme McDowell, made five straight birdies on the back nine and shot 65, which extended his lead over McDowell, who shot 74. The prize money in these last four events is the largest on the European Tour, except for majors and WGCs.