Former Tennessee golfer Ross McGowan finished sixth at the PGA European Tour’s Italian Open, played May 8-10 at the Castello di Tolcinasco Golf and Country Club in Milan, Italy.
McGowan finished the tournament at 20 under par with a scorecard of 64-71-64-69--268, five strokes behind tournament winner Hennie Otto at 25 under. The sixth place finish is his best this season.
Story from day of Italian Open: McGowan and Ruiz set a hot pace in Italy
08 May 2008
England’s Ross McGowan and Marco Ruiz of Paraguay produced golf as hot as the Milan sunshine to post respective eight under par 64s and share the lead in the first round of the Methorios Capital Italian Open.
Three players – England’s Mark Foster, South Africa’s Hennie Otto, and Scotland’s Marc Warren – are tied for second place on seven under par after an eventful day’s play at at Castello di Tolcinasco Golf and Country Club.
Challenge Tour graduate McGowan’s 64 was a flawless display of golf, featuring eight birdies – six of them before the turn.
The man from Surrey revealed his accuracy and distance off the tee was the main reason for a blistering start to his maiden Italian Open appearance.
He said: “I think on the important holes where you have to drive the ball well and hit the fairway I did just that. There were a couple of loose ones out there. But on the par fives and the long par fours I seemed to be able to hit the fairways, which was good. I played really nicely all through my game to be honest, holing out nicely from ten feet on the greens.
“The greens here are fantastic – probably the best I’ve seen for a while, and they stayed pretty true right through the day which is good. A few courses recently have spiked up in the afternoon, but these one are very firm.”
McGowan’s round was matched by Ruiz, who arrived in Milan on the back of a top 15 finish at last week’s Open de España in Seville.
The 33 year old said: “I played well last week, and at one point I was only one shot off the lead. But at the ninth hole, I tried to get too close to the pin, and ended up making a seven. It was a stupid mistake, but that’s golf for you. Today, I was very happy to shoot eight under par, and hopefully I can play well and fight for the title.”
Ruiz has also had to fight to rebuild a professional career which had appeared in jeopardy after he suffered a serious back injury two years ago.
He explained: “I had to withdraw from the Spanish Open in Madrid in 2006, and after that I had to quit golf for eight months. It was a problem with a disc in my back. I started playing again about six months ago, and last December I won the Argentina Open, beating Angel Cabrera. It was a wonderful experience for me. He’s my idol – I admire him a lot.
“The Argentina Open is like a Major for Latin Americans. About 11,000 Argentinians wanted Cabrera to win, but I managed to beat him which was amazing. Now I’m just happy to be playing golf again – playing on The European Tour is wonderful.”
Another player enjoying something of a renaissance is Foster, who shot himself into contention with a fine morning round.
Foster returned to form last week with a top 25 finish at the Open de Espana in Seville, after missing the cut in his previous three tournaments.
Having gained confidence from his display in Seville, the 33 year old opened his morning round with consecutive birdies, before adding another on the par five ninth. A further four birdies after the turn saw Foster sign for a 65.
He said: “When I had a look at my swing on the video in Malaysia a few weeks ago, it looked all over the place. So I had to sit down and take stock to work out where I was going wrong.
“At least it made me realise why I hadn’t been playing so well. I addressed it and saw a gradual improvement last week in Seville, even if I didn’t play consistently well. But today was much more like it.
“My birdie on 18 was pretty nice. I took the driver off the tee, kept it to the left hand side of the fairway, then had great control with my chip shot. On the 5th hole I hit another great drive, and put a six iron close. The only slight mistake all day came at the third, when I missed a putt from about three feet. I probably got a bit causal. Other than that, I played very solidly.”
In contrast, in recent weeks Foster’s game has been anything but solid. But as well as honing his technique, Foster has also been working on his mental fortitude, and the approach appears to be paying dividends.
He said: “It’s a horrible feeling to play badly and miss cuts. I got in a bit of a rut. I started to ask myself questions and doubt my ability. I needed to improve mentally, and I’ve started to do that. I’ve got to make a conscious effort.
“I have spells where it’s not as if I lose concentration, but my thinking processes have to improve. It’s something I’m aware of and have to keep striving for. I’ve done well the last two weeks, and I’ve now got to carry it on for the rest of the season.”
Warren’s displays so far this season have at times also been indifferent, but the Scot showed glimpses of the form which saw him win last year’s Omega Mission Hills World Cup in partnership with compatriot Colin Montgomerie.
He said: “Today was probably the best ball striking round I’ve ever had. My caddie just informed that if the putts which had lipped out today had gone into the hole, I could have shot 17 under par – which would have been a nice score. But I am chuffed with today. Everything seemed to go right, and it was a pretty stress-free day.
“In the past couple of months I haven’t played very much, and it was really to save myself for this part of the season where in the past I haven’t done very well. So I tried to change my schedule a little bit to try to give myself the opportunity to do a bit better, and be a bit fresher for these events. Hopefully it will work out that way.”
America’s John Daly is another who enjoyed his day in the sun, his round of 67 giving “The Wild Thing” a share of 14th place on five under par.
Daly said: “I had a good day today. Apart from the sixth, I drove the ball pretty well and moved it up in my stance a little bit, which felt good. I putted quite well too, but I hit a lot of greens which always helps.
“The course can be brutal and if you don’t find the fairway, you are not going to score. I was fortunate to find a few and score and although I got a couple of bad breaks, it was not too tough.
“It was great to shoot four under on my front nine, which is the tougher of the two nines. You really have to hit the fairways. There are some tough par fours and also some tough par threes on the front nine, so any time you shoot under par there you’re doing well.”