Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño said last night that, given the choice, he would rather find his missing dog than win the Barclays Scottish Open today. The first prize here is £500,000. Which gives one some idea of how much he values Petra.
Yes, it was all too easy to be flippant when the Spaniard spoke of his family's emotional turmoil after the disappearance of the pet from the home on the Costa del Sol. But the angst Fernandez-Castaño felt was real enough, as was the distraction he inevitably had to overcome in yesterday's third round. In the event he did so quite remarkably, and not a little courageously, by posting a day's best 64 to take a one-shot lead over Martin Kaymer and Retief Goosen.
"I got some bad news before my round and I was thinking about something else," said the 28-year-old. "So I was very proud of what I did. Maybe I can send a message back to the people of Marbella. If they find a female black shar pei they should telephone." If Fernandez-Castaño collects his fifth Tour title here this afternoon the reward should certainly be worth it. "Whatever it needs to see my wife happy again," he said.
A little further down the leaderboard, Lee Westwood has had to shrug off pain of a more physical nature. After two holes of his first round he was three over and considering packing it in. "I had a chest infection, felt dreadful, had had no sleep the night before and was thinking of walking off," he said. "But Dave [McNeilly, his caddie] said no, just keep grinding and that's what we've done."
Westwood has proceeded to grind his way into the top six courtesy of his own 64 to go with Friday's 66 to move to 10-under, four behind. "It just goes to show I'm a man who needs his sleep – I had 15 hours on Thursday," said Westwood "It just felt like somebody's else head on my shoulders – I was dizzy and I couldn't focus." Dizziness would have been an entirely forgivable state of mind after he birdied nine of his first 12 holes yesterday. Instead, the adrenalin gushed through Westwood as he envisaged recording the Tour's first 59. But then a delay stalled his roll.
"I was just unfortunate," said the 36-year-old, who last Sunday at the French Open lost out in a play-off to Kaymer after a closing 65. "I had to wait on the 13th tee and on the next as well. Those sort of things just break your rhythm occasionally. It was a shame as I'd been hitting it close all day really. The longest putt I holed was about 15 feet on the fourth. That's just the sort of golf I've been playing tee-to-green recently."
Such form gives Westwood an obvious chance at Turnberry this week. "I liked what I saw on Tuesday when I played it," he said. "Like every major, every facet of your game is going to have to be on song, but it is going to be a good course for a long straight driver." Westwood is a long, straight driver. And thanks to a recent tip from his regular caddie, Billy Foster, his putter is at last fit to share the same bag. "Billy told me to move the ball back in my stance and I'm getting a consistent strike on it," said Westwood.
Foster has not been here this week and with very good reason. On Thursday, laden down with a 40lb golf bag, he began the 90-mile walk from here to Turnberry for a breast cancer charity (www.justgiving.com/billyfoster). He assured Westwood he would be at the Ailsa Course for his arrival tomorrow. Now his boss is not so sure.
"I told him not to take any short cuts but he didn't listen," said Westwood. "Billy was heading towards Irvine Bogside Golf Club and decided to cut through the cornfields. But he got within 15 yards of Bogside and realised why they call it 'Bogside'. Between him and the course was a bog about half a mile wide. Billy made a charge for it. I can imagine it now. Just a golf bag being found, lying in that bog."
Tip of the week
No 9: the art of backspin
Everyone wants to achieve backspin into a green. However, there are many factors that prevent it occurring. You need good clean grooves on your clubface, a soft 3- or 4-piece golf ball, a tight lie on the fairway and receptive greens. If all the above are at your mercy, let's spin. Select a lofted wedge and place the ball towards the back of your stance. Position 65% of your weight on your left side (r-h golfers) and start your backswing with a steep upward move. Turn your shoulders to the top of the backswing and strike down hard into the back of the ball, like you're cutting the cover off it. The ball will fly lower than expected but when it hits the green you'll see lots of spin.
Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Purley Downs GC, Surrey. www.theshortgame.co.uk
Lee Westwood hits his third shot on the 13th hole during an excellent third-round 64 at the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond getty