2001: European Tour - Gonzalez follows Argentine footsteps

Crans-sur-Sierre, Switzerland

Ricardo Gonzalez, a former caddie in Formosa, Argentina, doesn’t carry his own bag anymore.

But he carried himself quite nicely Sept. 9 after winning the European Masters, going out of his way to say what an honor it was to win the year after Argentine compatriot and mentor Eduardo Romero won the same event.

“It’s a great honor to follow in Eduardo’s footsteps,” said Gonzalez, who earned 250,000 euros ($225, 400 U.S.) for his first PGA European Tour victory. “I got congratulations from Eduardo and the other Argentine players when I finished.

“This is a major victory, especially for Argentina. Nothing compares to this.”

Gonzalez, who became the fifth Argentine to win on the European Tour, was humble in victory, but his game showed plenty of bravado from start to finish. He led from wire-to-wire, as did Romero a year ago, and he became the 11th first-time winner on the European Tour this year.

Gonzalez entered the European Masters ranked 168th in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. His victory moved him to No. 151.

“I have been waiting for this victory for two or three years, but always something was missing,” said Gonzalez, whose last victory came in the Tusker Kenya Open on the European Challenge Tour in 1998. That victory helped him finish fifth on the Challenge Tour money list and earn his European Tour card.

“There has always been one bad round over the past two years in many tournaments. When I saw the leaderboard (Sunday in the European Masters), I knew I just had to play safe. I’m very happy.”

Gonzalez opened the tournament with a 6-under-par 65 before shooting 67-68-68 to earn a three-stroke victory at 16 under par. Denmark’s Soren Hansen finished second, and Craig Stadler tied Scotland’s Gary Orr for third at 273.

“That was way above my expectations for the week,” said Stadler, who preceded a family vacation by playing the event. “It was fun, a good time. It was a good start to the holiday.

“This is probably the best I’ve played in a year and a half.”

Stadler, who won at Crans-sur-Sierre in 1985, mounted a challenge, but three bogeys proved costly. He shot 69-69-67-68.

“I thought I might have a chance to win after birdieing the first two holes,” said Stadler, who won $631,752 on the PGA Tour in 2000, the most he has won since 1991 when he made a career-best $827,628. “But then I made a couple of mistakes.”

Gonzalez was nearly mistake-free in his breakthrough victory, and it put him in the top 10 for the sixth time this season. His previous best result on the European Tour was a second at the 2000 South African Open.

– From staff and wire reports

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