Harrington's stomach for fight shines through

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The Independent Online

This Volvo Masters has been hit by a stomach bug that has seen players and caddies spending the night on drips in hospital before rushing back to the course for their tee-off times. For Padraig Harrington, however, the only thing in need of stabilising in his gut are the butterflies as his first Order of Merit has come tantalisingly into focus.

After a second-round 69, the Irishman is four shots off Henrik Stenson, and a top-three placing could very well do him when the curtain comes down on the season tomorrow. Paul Casey's own tummy trouble cleared up enough for the Englishman to struggle around in 73 to lie at six-over, but Harrington could sneak through.

What Casey needs is David Lynn's constitution.

Due off at 1pm yesterday, the Stoke journeyman was still in a hospital bed an hour's drive away at 11am with a drip attached to his arm. "I threw up about 30 times the night before," revealed the 33-year-old. "I suddenly started to have cramps in both my arms and legs and couldn't move, so at 1am I was rushed by ambulance to Marbella hospital.

"I tried to sleep but every half-hour or so they woke me up to put in another drip. I must have had 10 in all. If you'd have told me then that I'd be able to play a full round today I would have thought you were crazy. But if you'd said I'd actually knock it around in under par [he actually went round level], I'd have thought you were more dehydrated than I was."

Indeed, Lynn's 71 took some believing, especially in conditions more southern Stoke than southern Spain. The wind whipped up, the rain got heavier and as Harrington and the other early starters sat in the clubhouse hardly warranting their luck, the unfortunates such as Lynn battled on.

Neither was he alone in feeling rancid out there as Simon Wakefield, his fellow Potteries professional, was as green as the surroundings and Emanuele Canonica's caddie completed a similar trip from emergency ward to fairway. Several players' wives and courtesy car drivers were struck down.

"I don't know how I got through that today," said Lynn, "and I just hope I'm over the worst. But I'm being tested for salmonella so I have to be careful."

After Stenson's finish he might also be tested for something. The Swedish Ryder Cup player had five birdies in a row from the 13th onwards and took just three putts in these five holes, courtesy of two chip-ins. With the gusts at their fiercest, it was an extraordinary finish for a day's best 68 that puts him at four-under and one ahead of Lee Westwood.

With Luke Donald in a group including "Lazarus" Lynn on two-under it is an exciting leaderboard. But it is the Order of Merit race that is really making the stomach muscles tighten.

For not only is Harrington in the hunt, but also David Howell and Robert Karlsson. The pair are on one-over and in need of the win. Harrington's position is almost as simple - first or second if Casey is in the top 35, third if he finishes outside it. At the moment Casey is tied 35th. Yes, it truly is squeaky bum time here.

l The BBC have renewed their deal to broadcast the Masters, on a one-year basis.