‘DON’T cry for me Argentina’ doesn’t apply to Ricardo Gonzalez. Certainly not in the last 12 months, a period in which he has suffered more grief than most people experience in a lifetime.
On the back of seeing his own mother and father die, the 43-year-old also lost his father-in-law just two weeks ago.
It was little wonder, therefore, that his broken English was tinged with emotion and, at one point, he even cast his eyes heavenwards as he reflected on those sad events after securing the outright lead at halfway in the £1.4 million Johnnie Walker Championship with a second successive seven-under-par 65.
“It’s been a very difficult and emotional time for me personally following the death of my mother Olga, my father Antonio and, now, my father-in-law Juan Carlos,” admitted Gonzalez after signing off his second round with five birdies on the PGA Centenary Course to record the lowest halfway total in the event’s 15-year history as he edged a shot ahead of his fellow overnight leader, Austrian Bernd Wiesberger (66).
Having failed to record a single top-ten finish in 16 starts this season, the four-times European Tour winner is by no means a certainty to add to that tally tomorrow night. “But, if I do win this week, which is obviously my target now, I would definitely dedicate it to my mother and father,” he added.
In a bid to recharge his batteries, Gonzalez spent the last five weeks back home in Rosario, birthplace of Che Guevara, the Marxist revolutionary, and also football wizard Lionel Messi.
“It felt strange not playing for so long as I’m a professional golfer and need competition,” said Gonzalez. “But it has obviously helped as I feel relaxed and, for the first two days here, I’ve not found it difficult to focus.”
Built in the same mould as compatriot Angel Cabrera, Gonzalez caddied at his local club for nine years before turning professional in 1985. The other caddies he worked with back then still crowd around the TV there to watch him.
For just over 18 months, the man carrying Gonzalez’s own bag has been East Calder’s Dave Renwick, who won majors with Jose Maria Olazabal, Steve Elkington and Vijay Singh and, according to his current employer, is both “very important” to him and “a nice gentleman”.
While he occasionally communicates with Gonzalez in Spanish, Renwick stuck to his native tongue as he summed up the leader’s performance over the past two days as “very impressive”.
Admitting Gonzalez would be a popular victor with his fellow players, he added: “I’ve been on his bag since Dubai last year and his putting has improved in that time as well as his scrambling. I’ve got no doubt that he can go on and win here.”
England’s Mark Foster had this title in his grasp two years ago, when he came to the 72nd hole with a one-shot lead only to run up a bogey-6 after finding tree trouble before losing out to Thomas Bjorn in a five-man play-off. One of several missed opportunities for the 38-year-old from Worksop, he arrived back here hoping for a week “under the radar” as he battles to hang on to his Tour card in 99th position on the money-list.
“But that’s gone out of the window now,” admitted Foster, whose sole European Tour success came ten years ago, after putting himself back in contention on next year’s Ryder Cup course, three shots off the pace in third, by signing for six birdies in a 67.
He said the disappointment two years ago hadn’t proved overly painful at the time. “But, later on, I thought about it a lot, especially the 18th tee and my decision to hit driver there, though I still maintain it was a bad swing rather than a bad club.”
Wiesberger, who also figured in that play-off two years ago, is another man in with a shout of going one better after he stormed home in 31. “If he keeps playing like that, Bernd will finish 25-under,” predicted playing partner Stephen Gallacher.