Thrilling finish to Order of Merit race

Thrilling finish to Order of Merit race

The battle to win the Order of Merit looks set for a thrilling climax with Ryder Cup team-mates Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Robert Karlsson all in contention at the Dunhill Links Championship.

Harrington currently heads the money list by £180,000 (€230,836) from Westwood, who would have been £100,000 (€128,220) closer by beating Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano in a play-off for the Quinn Insurance British Masters at The Belfry on Sunday.

Karlsson is third in the standings another £100,000 (€128,220) adrift, but with £432,000 (€553,912) on offer for the winner at St Andrews on Sunday evening, the race to win the Harry Vardon Trophy and end the year as European number one is still very much on.

And Karlsson was certainly doing his best to ensure a close finish as he moved into a share of second place towards the midway point of his second round at St Andrews today.

The 6ft 5in Swede picked up birdies at the first two holes to improve to seven under par, two shots behind Germany’s Martin Kaymer.

Kaymer, who missed out on qualifying for the Ryder Cup team by just £36,000 (€46,162) but took up captain Nick Faldo’s invitation to travel to Valhalla for the experience, was also playing the Old Course and went to the turn in 35.

A birdie at the 12th then took the 23-year-old, playing alongside his brother Philip in the pro-am team tournament, to nine under par and a two-shot cushion over the chasing pack.

That pack included Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who was playing Carnoustie - the hardest of the three courses – Ryder Cup Dane Soren Hansen and David Howell.

McIlroy, third in this event last year in only his second tournament as a professional, is seeking his first European Tour title after narrowly missing out in the Omega European Masters in Switzerland, losing to Jean-Francois Lucquin in a play-off.

Howell finished seventh on the Order of Merit in 2005 and third the following year, but slumped to 142nd last year after a season blighted by injuries and loss of form.

The 33-year-old from Swindon has shown signs of recapturing his best form this season and finished 16th at The Belfry on Sunday. He had picked up one birdie in nine holes today.

Westwood was four shots off the lead on five under par at the turn, one ahead of Harrington who birdied five of his last six holes in an opening 67 at Kingsbarns yesterday but was one over par for his round today.

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