Timely Ryder Cup boost for Fernandez-Castano
Qualifying for this year's Ryder Cup has been a burning ambition for Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and he gave himself a timely boost by charging into contention at the PGA Championship on Thursday.
By his own admission, the Spaniard has struggled for form in recent weeks because of his fervent Cup focus, so he was delighted to fire a five-under-par 67 in the opening round on a breezy afternoon at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort.
"That was great," Fernandez-Castano told reporters after his six-birdie display left him in a four-way tie for second, just one stroke behind pacesetting Swede Carl Pettersson.
"Funnily enough, I wasn't hitting the ball very good at the range this morning, but you know how this game works ... all of a sudden it just clicked out there.
"That birdie on the first calmed me down a little bit, and it was a very good round, especially with the wind that picked up this afternoon."
The 31-year-old from Madrid has never played in a Ryder Cup and has extra incentive to qualify for the 2012 European team, given that his good friend and compatriot Jose Maria Olazabal is the captain.
"It would be a dream come true for me to be a part of that team, not only for the Ryder Cup itself but having Olazabal as the captain, one of my childhood heroes," Fernandez-Castano said. "That would be pretty special and definitely the icing on the cake."
However the five-times European Tour winner has done himself no favours with a poor run of recent form, missing three cuts in his last eight starts on the circuit to leave himself on the outside looking in.
"I've been thinking too much about the Ryder Cup," he said. "I've been hitting the ball very good for the last month or so, and I haven't really scored. And that's probably because of that."
Fernandez-Castano, who won his most recent title at last year's Singapore Open to end a three-year victory drought, is effectively in 13th place in the European Cup standings.
The top 10 will automatically qualify for the biennial competition which will take place from September 28-30 at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago. The first five will book their spots via the European points list and the next five via the world rankings.
"I know it's a weird system that we have in Europe ... but I know I have a good chance," Fernandez-Castano said.
"I need to play well this week and probably in the next two weeks before we play at Gleneagles. I just need to go out there and be more relaxed, not thinking so much about the result."
The August 23-26 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in Scotland is the final qualifying tournament for European Cup selection.