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Warren Bennett

Goosen moves into world's top ten

Retief Goosen's elevation to number 10 in the world rankings almost delighted him as much as his first European order of merit title, and the South African is now ready for even greater things.

Goosen, 32, was crowned European number one on Sunday after beating England's Steve Webster in a playoff for the Madrid Open and this week he is taking a well-earned rest at his home in England.

He will then attempt to earn himself a golden bonus by capping the best year of his professional career with victory at next week's season-ending Volvo Masters in Spain.

The US Open champion can lift his 2001 European earnings above three million dollars if he can secure his fourth title of the year in Jerez.

And Goosen will be helped in his task as he will not have to contend with the pressure of his only serious rankings rival this season - Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke.

The battle for 2001 supremacy in Europe has been decided and, as a result, Goosen is likely to be even more relaxed in Jerez than he usually appears to be out on the course.

Victory for the South African in Spain would see him make a further impact on world golf and he is now determined to advance even higher up the world rankings with a maiden major title already under his belt.

"It's been a great year. At the start of it, I was around the 38th mark in the world rankings and now I'm number 10," he said.

"My goal by the end of this year was just to reach the top 20 in the world rankings and to be number 10 is hard to believe when there are so many good players out there.

"I'm looking forward to a new challenge now and I have a busy schedule coming up. We'll see what further progress I can make before taking a rest and then, hopefully, looking at an exciting year in 2002.

"There's still the Volvo Masters to come in Europe and, now the order of merit is history, I can go there with a fresh outlook.

"It's nice to know I don't have to worry about Clarke. He's had a great year, too, and I suspect one of us is going to have a great week (in Spain).

"But now it's going to be all about the golf tournament and not the order of merit."

Clarke will travel to the Montecastillo Golf Club in Jerez next week knowing he cannot relax, however, as he bids to cement his position as European number two for the third time in four years.

Meanwhile Steve Webster, who took Goosen to the very brink in Sunday's playoff for the Madrid Open, will be in less auspicious company this week at the Italian Open in Sardinia.

This penultimate tour stop of the year will focus on a clutch of European Tour strugglers who will be playing their last throws of the dice as they strive to secure their European Tour cards for next year.

The 25-year-old Webster, who has now finished second three times in six years on the European Tour, narrowly failed to post a debut win when he missed a five-foot putt for birdie at the first extra hole of sudden death in Madrid.

The Englishman, who struck the ball impressively in Spain all of last week, will bid to go one better in Italy this week.

Webster's compatriot Ian Poulter defends the Italian Open title that helped him to last year's European Tour rookie of the year award, and subsequently an England World Cup spot in Japan next month after he failed by one place to make the 2001 European Ryder Cup team.

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