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Riding The Winds

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Sweden's Pierre Fulke and Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal each birdied two of their final three holes Thursday at Montecastillo to share the top spot through Round 1 of the Volvo Masters.
 
Battling cutting winds, Fulke and Olazabal carded a pair of 5-under-par 67s to lead Scot Dean Robertson, Englishman Greg Owen and Northern Irishman Darren Clarke by one shot in Jerez, Spain.
 
Colin Montgomerie is tied with Argentine Angel Cabrera and fellow Scot Gordon Brand, Jr., for sixth place at 3-under-par. Monty's aspirations of capturing his eighth consecutive money title are still alive - though, they're on life support.
 
The slimmed-down Scot is roughly $640,000 behind Lee Westwood on the Volvo Order of Merit. Over $470,000 is on offer to this week's winner, with a cool million going to the victor of next week's WGC-American Express Championship in Valderrama, Spain.
 
'I know my objective,' said Montgomerie, who stands in fifth place on the Order of Merit. 'It doesn't matter what anyone else does, I have to win both tournaments.'
 
If Monty should fail to finish the season win-win, he'll have to have a little help from his friends to make it eight in a row. However, Westwood might not be the man Monty has to ultimately conquer. Thursday, the Englishman played his final four holes in 6-over-par en route to a 4-over 76. Westwood's demise included two bogeys and two double-bogeys.
 
With a strong finish this week, Clarke could surpass his stablemate for the No. 1 position in 2000 earnings. The Ulsterman is $70,000 back of Westwood. Thursday, Clarke birdied his final three holes for a round of 4-under-par 68, eight shots clear of Westwood and just one stroke off the lead.
 
'I didn't see what anyone else was doing,' Clarke said. 'I just have to go out and play as well as I can. The last thing I want to do is get ahead of myself or that can lead to big trouble. It's a hard enough game without worrying about others.'
 
Fulke, who won this year's Scottish PGA Championship, grabbed the early lead Thursday morning in the more docile conditions by carding five birdies to nary a bogey.
 
Meanwhile, Olazabal reached the same number in the first round, though he did so in much stronger winds. The 2000 Benson & Hedges International Open champion completed his round of 67 with an eagle 3 at the 12th and a pair of birdies at the 16th and 18th holes.
 
'The wind made it very difficult and it was hard to see the distances and choose the right club,' said Olazabal. 'The key was making birdies at the par-5s, especially given the weather conditions. After taking two weeks off, this round is a nice surprise.'
 
Ollie is making his first European start since the Linde German Master a month ago. The two-time Masters champion said he did more dove hunting than club swinging during his time off.
 

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