Article courtesy of The PGA European Tour 23 Oct 2006
Valderrama, the scene of so many exciting finales to The European Tour in seasons past, will again provide the dramatic backdrop for another gripping conclusion to the race to win the Order of Europe this week. A new name will appear on the coveted Harry Vardon Trophy after the Volvo Masters Sunday night – and it could be any of four people.
The contest to succeed Colin Montgomerie as European Number One has proved to be one of the most exhilarating for many years, with Paul Casey €2,409,241) leading the way from Padraig Harrington (€2,191,056), David Howell third €2,166,366) and Robert Karlsson (€2,000,092).
Depending on a combination of results in the season-ending Volvo Masters on the Costa del Sol’s most famous golf course, the current order could be reshuffled with a first prize of €666,660 at stake from a total prize fund of €4,000,000.
Howell, who led the Order of Merit race from the gun by winning the HSBC Champions tournament last November, was overhauled by Casey when the latter won another HSBC sponsored event, the World Match Play Championship, in September. Suddenly it was ‘game on’.
Howell, struggling to shake off a shoulder injury, missed the cut in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, as Harrington made his bold move. The Irishman climbed over Howell into second place with a victory which earned him €630,566 at St Andrews. Casey, who shared sixth place, kept the momentum going with another €122,960 to add to his ledger.
Casey then escaped for a two week holiday in the United States, Howell focussed on getting fit again while Harrington and Karlsson opted to tackle the Mallorca Classic. For Harrington, it was a frustrating exercise as he missed the cut but Karlsson kept his prospects alive by tieing for eight place and picking up €35,050.
While Casey tries to protect his lead of €281,185 over the chasing pack, the Englishman admitted modestly that he doesn’t truly feel he deserves to be on top right now. He said: “I feel very lucky to be ahead of ‘Howler’. He has had injury and fitness problems for much of the year and if he hadn’t, I think David would have been so far ahead by now that it would all be over.
“Having said that, I feel very, very honoured to be at the top of the list right now. It would be wonderful to win the Order of Merit. I think I would have to pinch myself if I won. To be Number One in Europe at the end of the year is a heck of an achievement for anybody.”