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Order of Merit showdown reaches Valderrama

Padraig Harrington and Justin Rose must finish in the top three at this week's Volvo Masters to have any chance of leapfrogging the absent Ernie Els on top of Europe's order of merit.

If Harrington is in the top three and ahead of Rose come Sunday night, the money-list crown will go to the Irishman for ths second season running.

Rose, 657 euros behind second-placed Harrington in the order of merit, must finish in the top three at Valderrama and ahead of Harrington to take the title for the first time in the absence of South African Els, who is playing in the Singapore Open.

"It's difficult to go into any tournament and finish in the top three on demand and it's difficult on a golf course I have traditionally found difficult," Harrington told a news conference on Wednesday.

"But I've had two goes at this before, against Retief (Goosen) when I failed miserably, and against Paul (Casey) when I came out on top."

The British Open champion said he would take heart from edging out Casey in 2006.

"I probably learned a lot more from missing out to Retief than I did winning last year," said Harrington.

"It's hard when you have to turn up and perform to nearly your best standard. But it gave me a great confidence boost to do it last year."

Rose, with one win and three second places in a limited European season, was buoyed by an unexpected chance at order of merit honours.

"I certainly feel excited about an opportunity that's presented itself that I didn't think would happen at the start of the year," said the 27-year-old Briton.

"It's a situation that I would love to capitalise on and make the most of. I've played a very limited schedule, it's the kind of opportunity I think would be a huge achievement."

Whether he prevails or not, Rose is concentrating on making sure he is fit for next season having had his year blighted by a back injury.

With a first prize of 666,660 euros on offer here, fourth-placed Henrik Stenson and fellow Swede Niclas Fasth in fifth could still edge out Els, Harrington and Rose at the top of the money list.


November 1, 2007

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