A year's worth of emotional highs and lows, from nail-biting victories to missed cuts on the European tour was to come down to four men over 18 holes yesterday.
Paul Casey came into the season-ending Volvo Masters with a 218,185 euros (US$274,080) lead over Padraig Harrington in the race for the season's Order of Merit title. No. 3 David Howell sits 242,875 euros behind Casey and No. 4 Robert Karlsson trails by 409,149 euros.
Casey teed off in Valderrama knowing a strong result would see him in control of the tour's money crown.
Unfortunately, a bout of food poisoning took matters out of his hands -- almost.
"The last two days weren't very good, but no excuses now," Casey said, whose 71 on Saturday left him 6 over and tied for 32nd. "With all three of them being close to the top, I can maybe steal away a position from them, make them finish second rather than third."
"That's the plan of action. That's the goal," he said.
Harrington must finish in the first three, Howell in the top two, and Karlsson must win the 666,660 euros prize if one of them wants to become only the fifth different golfer to capture the season title since 1993.
If Casey can finish better than 35th, he will force Harrington and Howell to finish one place higher than at present.
Howell and Karlsson had rounds of 1-under 70 for a three-day total of even-par 213. They sit three shots back of leader Jeev Milkha Singh.
Howell birdied five straight holes to get to 4 under, but the English Ryder Cup player's three bogeys on the back nine could end up making all the difference.