Casey determined to fight on after slumping to opening 76

It was not the race for the Order of Merit Paul Casey was concerned with here yesterday so much as that for the nearest toilet. A stomach bug threatened to ruin the young Englishman's challenge to end this season's finale as the European No 1 and at the same time gave hope to his nearest pursuers.

It was an invitation that was reluctantly, rather than gratefully, received by the trio who could yet overhaul Casey's near £150,000 advantage at the top of the money list, with the Swede Robert Karlsson making most of the clear path up the leaderboard, lying at two-under, three off the pace set by Jose Manuel Lara, The Valencian's 67 was a fine score, although it was Casey's bravery the locals were tipping their sombreros to with most admiration. The effects of "Spanish belly" could be seen all over Casey's drained face and if that was not evidence enough of his sufferings then the scene on the pathway behind the 11th tee most definitely was.

With only a burly security man blocking the galleries from a view they really could not have been expecting, Casey was forced to pull down his trousers for a doctor to administer a shot in the obvious area. "I'm not sure what the injection was," said Casey, "but it was to stop the nausea and he also gave me a pill to let's say solidify things everywhere else. That was easily the worst I've ever felt playing golf."

Indeed, on most other days, in most other tournaments, Casey would have withdrawn. But, as he pointed out, "this is not most tournaments." "I'm praying it is a 24-hour bug," he added. "I only had some ham, melon and pasta last night and it was actually very good. But there's clearly something going around as a few of the caddies have come down with it as well - one of them is even on a drip. Whatever, I'm not going to give up and will carry on until the doctor says otherwise. Put it this way I can't feel any worse."

He could have played a lot worse, though, as his 76 left him only three behind Harrington, his playing partner and the closest to him in the earnings chase. Despite expressing his sympathy for Casey's plight, the Irishman still bore the look of a man who had just missed a trick. "It could have been and should have been so much better," he said, bemoaning, as ever, the putter.

Harrington needs to finish in the top three - at least - to have any chance of leapfrogging Casey, while Karlsson and David Howell must come first or second. The latter shrugged off a shoulder injury to coerce it around in one-under, his minus figure arriving courtesy of a holed bunker shot at the last.

"After not hitting a single shot in 10 days I was happy with that," said Howell. "The pain is affecting me but I can get through it and will try to stay in the hunt."

Elsewhere, it was a question of a golfer's apparel giving way and not his body. Danny Poulter flew in from Luton Airport last night with a replacement driver for his brother. Ian's had cracked on the fourth tee, although he still managed to fire a 71.

"Danny was doing my floor in my kitchen when my manager rang him to go to the garage and then get over here," said Poulter. "So he'll be glad of the break." As long as he steers clear of the ham, melon and pasta, of course.

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