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Robert Karlsson looks to seal Order of Merit title

Victory in this week’s Portugal Masters would take Robert Karlsson within a whisker of becoming the first Swede to win the European order of merit.

“It would be a huge thing for me if it happens,” Karlsson told a news conference on Wednesday.

“Sweden has had a lot of good players but we haven’t produced in the big things yet, not the majors, not the order of merit, stuff like that, so I’m hopeful of being the first one.”

Karlsson’s main rival for the top spot is double 2008 major winner Padraig Harrington, who is absent this week.

The 39-year-old Karlsson moved into the world’s top 10 for the first time by winning the Dunhill Links Championship earlier this month and also opened up a lead of 142,000 euros ($194,000) over the second-placed Irishman.

The world number eight from Sweden will equal Tiger Woods’s 2006 feat of landing three European Tour victories in a row if he takes the first prize of 500,000 euros on the Algarve.

That would also leave Harrington with an almost impossible task to catch him, with only the season-ending Volvo Masters to come featuring a winner’s cheque for 700,000 euros.

“To beat Padraig after the season he has had would be fantastic,” said Karlsson.

“I’ve probably played about twice as many (events) as he has but it’s about how much you make over the season and your choice of events becomes a big part of it.”

It is by no means a two-horse race, however.

Third-placed Briton Lee Westwood, 350,000 euros adrift of Karlsson, could conceivably climb to the top of the money-list if he wins on Sunday.

The 2000 European number one, though, said he had another main focus.

“If at the end of the two tournaments I win the order of merit that will be great but if not I won’t worry about it,” said Westwood.

“I’m trying to do a few swing changes between now and the end of the year so I have other plans. My main focus is really to get ready for (next year’s) U.S. Masters.”

Miguel Angel Jimenez, in fourth spot, also has an outside chance of winning the order of merit, and to spice up the start the Spaniard will play the opening two rounds alongside Karlsson and Westwood on Thursday and Friday.


October 16, 2008

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