Volvo Masters Wraps Up European Season

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2005 Volvo MastersThe European Tour puts the finishing touches on its 2006 season with this week's Volvo Masters at the Club de Golf Valderrama in Spain.
 
And just like last season, the top story at Valderrama is the race for the Order of Merit.
 
Last season it was Colin Montgomerie in a duel with Micheal Campbell for the top spot, but this season there are four main contenders for the title -- leader Paul Casey, Padraig Harrington, David Howell and Robert Karlsson. Casey's lead over Harrington is $278,000.
 
Casey, who took over the top spot after his big win at the World Match Play Championship last month, is excited about his prospects.
 
'It would be wonderful to win the Order of Merit. I think I would have to pinch myself if I won,' siad Caesy. 'To be No. 1 in Europe at the end of the year is a heck of an achievement for anybody.
 
Harrington, who vaulted into contention for the Order of Merit title following his win at the Dunhill Links Championship, missed the cut last week but comes to Valderrama as a past champion, winning the season-ending event in 2001.
 
Also in the mix this week in Spain are Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Jos Maria Olazbal, Henrik Stenson and a pair of former champions in Lee Westwood (1997) and Ian Poulter (2004).
 
For Garcia, another runner-up finish could be heartbreaking. First, he's coming off his second straight runner-up finish at the Mallorca Classic, which like the Volvo Masters, is also held in his home country. Secondly, he has placed second the past two years in this event - a playoff loss to Poulter in '04 and two strokes back of Paul McGinlel last season.
 
The purse for the event is $4,909,984 with $835,967 going to the winner.
 
Some noticeable absentees this week are European Tour stalwarts Retief Goosen and Ernie Els, who are both ranked in the top-10 on the money list.
 
The Golf Channel will broadcast all four rounds live beginning Thursday at 9 a.m. ET.
 

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