Westwood denied in play-off by Fernandez-Castano


As if 25 holes in the day were not enough, Lee Westwood had to go three more in fading light before failing in his bid to retain the Quinn Insurance British Masters at The Belfry. On a thankfully fog-free final day the title went instead to Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano - a win which will probably stop Westwood returning to the world's top 10 after a gap of seven years.

Tired all week following his exertions in the Ryder Cup, the Worksop golfer was three clear with 10 to play, but was gradually reeled in by Fernandez-Castano.

They tied on the 12-under-par total of 276, Westwood finishing with a 70 to his opponent's 67, and after each in turn had made a 10-footer to stay alive in extra time a par four at the next decided the £300,000 first prize.

Off much the better drive Westwood missed the green for the third time in a row and on this occasion left his chip 15 feet short and missed.

"I just struggled with my swing all day," he said. "I didn't feel under control at any point.

"I was pleased to be in a play-off as I felt I really hung in there.

"When 'Gonzo' chipped in at the 12th I think the writing was on the wall. I felt I am at the end of my tether and running on empty."

His €250,000 cheque still takes him from fourth to second on the European Order of Merit, but instead of being less than €100,000 behind Padraig Harrington the gap is more than twice that entering the last five weeks.

Last year's five-shot win in the same event remains Westwood's last success. He has now had 14 top-10s since then, including third place in the US Open in June.

It was 27-year-old Fernandez-Castano's fourth Tour victory - and takes his play-off record to a perfect 3-0.

Yet it was his first top-10 finish since the Wales Open at the start of June and he came into the week only 105th on the money list.

No wonder he was still prepared to go into the freezing cold lake by the final green to celebrate at 7pm.

New Zealander Michael Campbell, joint leader with a round to go, finished third two strokes back.

Westwood and Campbell had moved clear of the field with sparkling finishes to their third rounds when play resumed at 8am.

Campbell, having signed off with a birdie at the fifth in near-darkness on Saturday night, returned to make it four in a row and posted a 65.

But Westwood, whose round had begun with three bogeys, grabbed his second eagle in five holes thanks to a five-wood to four feet on the 538-yard third, then birdied the fifth and sixth for a 68.

They were both 10 under entering the closing 18 holes, with Jeev Milkha Singh and Fernandez-Castano next best on seven under.

"Cambo is a bit strange in that he either wins the US Open or goes missing for three or four months," said Westwood.

"But he is good when gets in the mix of things and it will be difficult to win with him around."

As for how he felt about such an early start and such a long day ahead of him Westwood commented: "I needed it like a hole in the head after last week. You just have to dig deep."

It looked as if he might have an easy afternoon when he went three clear after seven holes of the final round, but bogeying the ninth - he was inches from the water there - and three-putting the 10th for par meant there was more work to be done.

Lots more, as it turned out, after Fernandez-Castano chipped in for a dramatic par on the 12th after pushing his tee shot into the stream by the green.

He was still one behind at that point, but a pitch to four feet on the next brought him level and they could not be separated over the closing stretch - or on their next two visits to the 473-yard 18th.

But playing it for the fourth time in the day the crowd finally saw a winner.

Fernandez-Castano, soaked to the skin and re-appearing for a press conference draped in towels, said: "I think it's probably the best of my four wins. My season was not going very well and I was starting to get worried."

As for ending up in the water with fellow Spanish players ready to throw him in he added: "I think it was payback, especialy (Pablo) Larrazabal.

"We threw him in at the French Open and I am sure he wanted to get his revenge.

"It was cold, but it just stank. It smelt terrible, as I do now."

Rory McIlroy shot a disappointing 76 to drop to two-over-par alongside Graeme McDowell, who had his best round of the week with a 71.

Paul McGinley and Peter Lawrie finished five over and eight over respectively.