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Goosen & Harrington renew money race

Defending champion Retief Goosen will look to cement his position at the top of the European order of merit when he tees off in the Madrid Open starting on Thursday.

Goosen was crowned European number one last season when he defeated England's Steve Webster in a playoff at Club de Campo, which followed victories at the U.S. and Scottish Opens earlier in the season.

His closest rival in Europe last year was Ireland's Padraig Harrington, and the Ryder Cup player goes into the Madrid Open again hoping to topple Goosen from the number one spot.

Goosen heads the earnings with 2,299,070 euros ($2.24 million), a lead of just 54,029 euros ($52,700) on third-placed Harrington, again his nearest challenger now that second-placed Ernie Els has completed his European schedule for the season.

With a first prize of 233,330 euros ($227,600) on offer in Madrid, there is ample opportunity for Goosen to stretch his lead or for Harrington to either close the gap or take over as number one.

Both players have entered the lucrative season-ending Volvo Masters at Valderrama, Spain from November 7-10, where Harrington will be defending champion and hoping to collect another winner's cheque for 330,000 euros ($321,900).

However, only Harrington is down to play next week's 1,100,000 euros ($1.07 million) Italian Open, which gives the Irishman an opportunity to steal some ground on his South African rival.

Both Goosen and Harrington lost in the second round of the World Match Play Championship last week, which prompted Harrington to say: "To be honest, it's probably better for me to have a long week off as I'm very tired now.

"There's always a silver lining when this sort of things happens," he added, referring to the extra rest he could take ahead of the Madrid Open.

Harrington will hope to reproduce the form that saw him clinch the Dunhill Links Championship earlier this month, where he defeated Argentina's Eduardo Romero in a playoff.

Mathematically it is still possible for Romero, placed fourth on the rankings with 1,784,015 euros ($1.74 million), to clinch the order of merit.

But as the Argentine will not be teeing up in Madrid he will have to rely on poor results for both Goosen and Harrington in the coming weeks.

In light of Goosen's win in Madrid last year and Harrington's Volvo Masters success, it seems more likely it will develop into a two-horse race between the two.

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