Karlsson coup raises Ryder Cup hopes

Deutsche Bank Players' Championship
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The Independent Online

Lee Westwood and Robert Karlsson will have the Ryder Cup on their minds in the final round of the Deutsche Bank Players' Championship here today.

Karlsson holds a two-shot lead after shrugging off a weather delay of 95 minutes - as well as the theft of his ball-marker - to card a 66 which took him to 20 under par. Westwood, seeking a third victory here at Gut Kaden, fired a 67 to finish on 18 under, two shots ahead of Europe's Ryder Cup captain, Ian Woosnam, and the young South African Charl Schwartzel. One shot further back, Schwartzel's compatriot Retief Goosen, Scotland's Gary Orr and the long-hitting Italian Emanuele Canonica share fifth place on 15 under.

With 600,000 points on offer to the winner, victory today could be crucial to the chances of either of the leading duo qualifying for the European team at the K Club in September. Karlsson would climb as high as seventh in the rankings while West-wood would move up to 12th.

Karlsson made a superb start to his third round with five birdies in the first seven holes, but lost his momentum when play was suspended due to the threat of lightning with the last group on the 11th green. Upon the resumption, both Karlsson and Woosnam's ball-markers were missing and the pair had to estimate where they should be replaced before continuing. Karlsson faced a relatively short birdie putt but eventually missed it. "Someone stole my ball-marker but it was a bad one to steal," he said. It was a Swedish kroner, worth about 8p. "We tried to find the pitch mark but it was a couple of hours later and you're never going to find the exact spot. It was definitely not nearer the hole and it's good to know that."

Karlsson, who controversially missed out on a wild card for the 1999 Ryder Cup, said: "There is a lot more to play for than the Ryder Cup tomorrow. This tournament is a separate thing. I can't let myself start thinking 'this will happen, or that won't happen'. I can't go there, and I won't let myself go there. So many other things will come with a win, like world ranking points. If I win tomorrow I will look at the Ryder Cup on Monday."

Westwood adopted the same attitude. "I'm just looking to win," he said. "One will take care of the other." But unlike Karlsson, the 33-year-old from Worksop felt he benefited from the weather delay. "It was just a natural break for lunch really and I came out a little bit fresher afterwards."