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Paul Casey heads four way Order of Merit race

Paul Casey goes into this week's Volvo Masters in pole position to win a four-way race for the European order of merit title.

A new name will appear on the coveted Harry Vardon trophy when the final tournament of the season ends on Sunday and Casey is under pressure to withstand challenges from Ryder Cup team mates Padraig Harrington, David Howell and Robert Karlsson.

The contest to succeed Colin Montgomerie as European number one goes right to the wire. Casey, with earnings of 2,409,241 euros ($3.02 million), leads the way from Harrington (2,191,056), Howell (2,166,366) and Karlsson (2,000,092).

But with a first prize of 666,660 euros at stake from a total prize fund of four million euros at the famous Valderrama course on the Costa del Sol, there could be a reshuffle at the top of the money list.

Howell, who led the race after winning the Champions Tournament in Shanghai last November, was overhauled by Casey when his fellow Briton won the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth in September.

Casey, who also won the China Open in November and the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in June, considers himself fortunate to have leapfrogged his good friend on the order of merit.

"I feel very lucky to be ahead of `Howler'," Casey told the tour's Web site.

"He has had injury and fitness problems for much of the year. If he hadn't I think David would have been so far ahead by now it would all be over."

Casey, however, is relishing the prospect of being crowned Europe's top player.

"I would have to pinch myself if I won the order of merit," said the 29-year-old Englishman. "To be number one in Europe at the end of the year is a heck of an achievement for anybody."

Howell, who also won the prestigious PGA Championship at Wentworth in May, will be refreshed after two weeks of rest.

"It is down to the four of us," said the 31-year-old Englishman.

"It would be wonderful to have that trophy on the sideboard. It's something I never really thought I would achieve but I am on the verge of doing it."

Irishman Harrington will aim to bounce back after missing the cut at last week's Mallorca Classic.

For Swede Karlsson, order of merit honours would cap a memorable season during which he made his Ryder Cup debut in the victory over the U.S. at the K Club in Ireland.

Darren Clarke will be the only member of Europe's Ryder Cup team missing when the Volvo Masters gets underway on Thursday.

October 25, 2006


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