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Goosen-Harrington rivalry hots up

Madrid Open defending champion Retief Goosen and his 2002 European order of merit rival Padraig Harrington have launched a war of words as they prepared for the climax to this year's money-list battle.

Less than $50,000 separates third-placed Harrington from European rankings leader Goosen as they contest the $240,000 Madrid Open first prize at Club de Campo.

The pair's intense rivalry began with Goosen calling Harrington "desperate" because the Irishman has elected to play the last three events to count towards the money-list -- this week in Spain, the Italian Open next week in Rome and the lucrative tour finale, the Volvo Masters in Valderrama, Spain.

But despite discussing Goosen's comment with the South African over lunch on Tuesday, Harrington revealed on Wednesday that he was still stung by his rival's words in an earlier press conference in which he also accused the Irishman of slow play.

"Harrington plays to the limit all the time, but if he is not fined it means he is all right," Goosen had said.

"In (the United States) they just come and tell you that you are fined, no warnings."

Harrington, who wondered if Goosen was trying to inflame him over their order of merit contest, hit back.

"It's a case of the pot calling the kettle black, because he's no boy racer himself," he said.

"Obviously Retief hasn't played with me for a while...I haven't been on the clock for four months because I've changed my routine.

"But when you get a name for being a slow player it wouldn't matter if I ran around the course, I'd still get accused.

"I've only had one bad time in my life and that came in this year's Masters when a non-European official had put me on the clock. And I couldn't believe I'd got the bad time."

Director of European Tour Operations David Garland disputed that, insisting Harrington had had two bad times in his career.

Harrington, winner of the 2000 Madrid title, added: "I'll be looking to see how Retief does this week and obviously the order of merit is my target.

"But when I tee it up tomorrow (Thursday) I've got to get the order of merit out of my mind and focus on the tournament.

"The Volvo Masters is where it will all be decided anyway, but I want to try to get well ahead, at least be in touch.

"I would hate to go to Valderrama knowing he (Goosen) could play poorly and still win the order of merit."

Goosen said: "I know I cannot win the order of merit this week, but it would be nice to extend my leadership and be better placed for the Volvo Masters.

"Being number one in Europe is an incredible achievement.

"Harrington is playing three events, so obviously he is very keen to win it."

Ernie Els, who could still snatch the title from both Goosen and Harrington, is number two in Europe, but last week's World Matchplay winner is insisting he will not play the lucrative final event, the Volvo Masters.

"I can't believe Ernie won't play the Volvo Masters," said Harrington. "He's playing so well and I'm sure he would want to be European number one, so I still think he'll be there."

Harrington said he was going to enjoy playing with Seve Ballesteros again in the opening rounds in Madrid, a man he considers one of golf's all-time greats.

Two of Harrington and Goosen's chief threats in Madrid are home favourite Miguel Angel Jimenez and the fast-improving Lee Westwood.

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