has opportunity in Rome
This week's Italian Open will provide
Ireland's Padraig Harrington with a golden opportunity to replace Retief Goosen
on top of the European Tour order of merit for the second tournament in a row.
Second-placed Harrington trails Goosen, who topped last year's money list,
by just 54,029 euros ($53,170) in the standings and the South African will not
be in Rome this week, having decided to play in the U.S. Tour's season-ending
Tour Championship in Atlanta, Georgia.
World number seven Harrington was
well-placed to move ahead of Goosen at last week's Madrid Open but the Irishman,
tournament leader by one going into the final round, wasted the chance by closing
with a one-over-par 72.
He and Goosen, who fired a final-round 67, ended
up in a three-way tie for seventh at 15-under 269, the order of merit gap between
the two remaining unchanged.
"It was a week that had great potential
but it ended up really disappointing," Harrington said of the Madrid Open.
"My confidence was gone at the end but now I'm looking forward to
The 59th Italian Open is the penultimate event on the 2002
European Tour schedule before the season ends with next week's Volvo Masters at
Valderrama in Spain.
While the battle for the order of merit title will
dominate both events, this week's tournament at Rome's Olgiata Golf Club will
go a long way to determining the money list's top 115, who will automatically
secure all-exempt status for the 2003 tour.
The Italian Open also offers
a final chance for players to force their way into the limited field of 66 for
next week's event in Spain.
The season-ending Volvo Masters brings together
the leading 55 players in the European order of merit, the event's previous five
winners and six special invitees.
Frenchman Gregory Havret, who won his
maiden European Tour title in Sardinia last year after edging out Bradley Dredge
of Wales, is playing in Rome this week as defending champion.
former Italian Open winners are also in the field -- 1976 champion Baldovino Dassu
of Italy, compatriot Massimo Mannelli (1980), Englishmen Mark James (1982), Jim
Payne (1996) and Ian Poulter (2000), Scotland's Dean Robertson (1999) and Patrik
Sjoland of Sweden (1998).
The tournament is one of the oldest on the European
Tour, having been first staged in 1925.
Past champions include former major
winners Tony Jacklin of England (in 1973), American Billy Casper (1975), Germany's
Bernhard Langer (1983 and 1997) and Scotland's Sandy Lyle (1984 and 1992).
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