Monty and Sergio lead the wild Goosen chase

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The Independent Online

Where once the Volvo Masters provided the definitive conclusion to the European season, the finale is now more complicated. There are a myriad of inconsistencies relating to what is still meant to be the European Order of Merit - for example, two of the American majors count but the US Masters does not. So Garcia, second in the US PGA, is a contender for Colin Montgomerie's No 1 spot but Jose Maria Olazabal, winner at Augusta, is not - and as Monty said: "If I can't understand it, then you have no chance."

Where once the Volvo Masters provided the definitive conclusion to the European season, the finale is now more complicated. There are a myriad of inconsistencies relating to what is still meant to be the European Order of Merit - for example, two of the American majors count but the US Masters does not. So Garcia, second in the US PGA, is a contender for Colin Montgomerie's No 1 spot but Jose Maria Olazabal, winner at Augusta, is not - and as Monty said: "If I can't understand it, then you have no chance."

Whatever happens in today's final round at Montecastillo, where South African Retief Goosen led at 16 under by two from Kiwi Michael Campbell with Argentina's Jose Coceres one further back, the final placings on the 1999 Order of Merit will not be decided until next Sunday at Valderrama. This is despite the fact that only a third of the field at the AmEx World Championship will be European Tour members, or 22 players give or take, in a field mostly consisting of Americans.

And huge though Montgomerie's lead at the top of the money list will still be by this evening, quite what the Scot needs to do this week will not be decided until the exchange rate for the $5 million is fixed tomorrow. There will be $1 million for the winner but how that converts exactly to pounds and euros is not yet known. A further oddity is that the 2000 Order of Merit starts as soon as next week, at the Johnnie Walker Classic in Taiwan, an event co-sanctioned with the Asian PGA and Australasian tours.

It is just as strange that the US money list will be concluded on Spanish soil, but Tiger Woods can actually secure the No 1 spot today at the US Tour Championship. Quite which Americans will catch the charter plane from Houston is still undecided. Woods is committed to the event as the world No 1 is associated with the title sponsors.

There have been rumours all year that some Americans will not bother to make the trip, with David Duval being one of them should Woods have sown up the money list crown. So far Mark O'Meara is the only player definitely to rule himself out but others, such as Davis Love, who led the Tour Championship when it was interrupted on Friday to allow players to attend the memorial service for Payne Stewart in Houston, have said that, in the circumstances, this is not the time to be playing golf.

Meanwhile, Montgomerie had a frustrating day on the greens at Montecastillo yesterday, his 71 containing only two birdies, both at par-fives, and leaving the Scot six behind Goosen. Garcia made a brilliant start, going to the turn in 30 before coming home one over for a 67. His four birdies included a 35-footer at the sixth and an eagle at the ninth where he hit a five-iron from the rough 217 yards up the hill to 25 feet and holed the putt.

Paul Lawrie, the Open champion, was Garcia's playing partner and should have matched El Nino's 12-under total but for an incorrect drop on the ninth. Lawrie was taking relief from ground under repair behind the green and though he dropped the ball within a club length, he did so on the putting surface.

The Scot was informed of his two-shot penalty after the round but before signing his card by chief referee John Paramor. "It's ridiculous," Lawrie said, somewhat disgruntled. Padraig Harrington twice drew level with Goosen on the front nine but at the 10th, found water for the fourth time this week. His double bogey was followed by dropped shots at two of the next three holes and the Irishman dropped back to 12 under.

Goosen, was unaffected by his playing partner's stumbles and, though a 70 was eight shots worse than his opening effort on Thursday, there was just one bogey, at the 17th, only his second dropped shot of the week. A victory here would keep him within range of catching Montgomerie at the top of the money list.

For Campbell, now four years removed from his impressive third place in the Open at St Andrews, a victory and the £166,000 first prize is essential merely to tee up at Valderrama. The Kiwi is 47th on the Order of Merit and needs to rise into the top 20. He scored a 67 yesterday but Bernhard Langer, who could also qualify by being in the top 50 on the world rankings, might be more of a danger to John Bickerton, the man currently 20th.

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