Firstly, whos still able to capture the final ever European Order of Merit title? Robert Karlsson is No. 1, but there are four players who have a chance of catching him: Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Henrik Stenson.
Stenson needs to win both the Castello Masters and the Volvo Masters, and hope for a Karlsson collapse at Valderrama, which is hardly likely. Like Karlsson, Jimenez isnt playing this week, so The Mechanic would need a win on the home soil of Andaluca and have Karlsson finish middle of the field to have any chance.
Westwood has chosen not to play in Valencia this week also, meaning he would have to win the Volvo Masters and see Karlsson finish outside of the top 5. Harrington, meanwhile, poses the biggest threat to the big Swede. Surprisingly, though, the Irishman is absent from this weeks field, leaving a Volvo Masters face-off to decide the title.
In all likelihood, Harrington will need to finish first or second at the Volvo, and trust Karlsson doesnt do the same, for Paddy to capture the second Order of Merit crown of his career. All eyes will be on the pair for what is sure to be a thrilling final installment of an event which has been played on the European schedule since Nick Faldos win in 1988.
Harrington has won the event before, back in 2001, but that was the last of the five years it was played at nearby Montecastillo. His best finish at Valderrama is a runner-up spot in 2006 behind Jeev Milkha Singh. Karlsson, on the other hand, has managed to twice finish fourth, but not since 2001. Both Harrington and Karlsson are having the best seasons of their careers and despite what might have been said in the media, deep down great sportsman want to win titles. I expect a great week on the Costa Del Sol.
Next year well be talking about the Race to Dubai, bonus pools, and desert specialists. Its not the same really, but youve got to go where the money is I suppose; lets just hope the Gulf isnt hit by a lack of capital in the next 12 months.
What about those players chasing a European Tour card for next season? This weeks event marks the final chance to secure a place in the first Race to Dubai. The European Tours cut-off number is 115. However, that doesnt count affiliate members, of which there is currently three inside the top 115, so the line slides down to 118. The lucky bubble boy is Patrik Sjoland. Notable names outside the line include: Peter Baker (131), Jean Van de Velde (133), Anton Haig (139), Eduardo Molinari (146) and Philip Price (163).
Van de Velde loses his exemption at the end of the season, and hes already decided not to return to Q-School. The French stars agent, Jamie Cunningham, told me this week he will not head to San Roque next month regardless of whether he earns enough this week. Jean will need a sixth-place finish or better to creep up inside the mark. If that doesnt happen hell play roughly 10 events next season through invitations and partial status and then concentrate on other business activities.
Price, a Ryder Cup winner in 2002, loses his European Open exemption at seasons end. Thankfully for Welshman, he falls inside the top 40 on the career money list, a year-long reprieve for a man whos really struggling with his game. Price, who once dabbled on the PGA Tour, hasnt had a top-10 since January 2007.
Finally, I must find some page space for a lady who has had a remarkable year and received very little credit. Gwladys Nocera has notched five victories on the Ladies European Tour this season. At the Goteberg Masters she shot 29 under par, beating Nina Reis by 11 strokes, and most recently Nocera carded a final-round 67 to win the Madrid Ladies Masters and a 100,000 ($130,000) first prize. The 33-year-old from Moulins, France leads the New Star money list with four events remaining on the schedule.
Email your thoughts to Tom Abbott