Sun, Nov 04, 2007 - Page 22 News List

Justin Rose on track to take Order of Merit

AP , SOTOGRANDE, SPAIN

Sweden's Jesper Parnevik watches his tee shot at the 18th hole during the second round of the Children's Miracle Network Classic golf tournament at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on Friday.

PHOTO: AP

Justin Rose shot a three-under 68 on Friday for a four-shot lead over European Order of Merit rival Padraig Harrington at the halfway point of the season-ending Volvo Masters.

Rose, who was one over at the turn, had four birdies over his last nine holes. At four-under 138 after two rounds, the Englishman was the only player in the 55-man field under par.

"I'm very focused right now and I'm staying in the moment and that's why I'm playing so well," Rose said. "We're nowhere near the finish line, so it's still very much just going about my business and the same old boring stuff, one shot at a time."

Harrington, who won the Order of Merit money title here last year, had birdies at the fourth and fifth holes before a bogey at the last gave him a 71 for the day and even-par for the tournament.

"It's very much game on for the tournament and game on for the Order of Merit," the Irishman said. "It's exactly the situation I was hoping for at the start of the week and hopefully myself and Justin can carry it on tomorrow and sort it out sometime late Sunday [today] afternoon."

Harrington, the British Open champion, leads Rose by only 657 euros (US$950) in the European Tour standings.

Order of Merit leader Ernie Els, who opted to play in Singapore on the Asia Tour this week, holds a 217,295 euros advantage over Harrington.

Rose nearly had a hole-in-one at the par-three third for the second straight day, sticking it close to the pin before making birdie.

But after missing a 2m-putt for birdie at the next and enduring a poor putting stroke for bogeys at the fifth, seventh and ninth, Rose decided to play it safe.

Rose pitched close before knocking down birdie putts of 2m and 4m at the 10th and 11th, the latter giving him the lead for good.

Though his 3m birdie putt at the 16th didn't fall, he made a 8m-putt for a birdie four at the next hole. He decided to lay up rather than risk the water that guards the green.

Harrington had 11 straight pars in a much more consistent round after Thursday's up-and-down day.

First-day leader Graeme McDowell (75) of Northern Ireland was joined by Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez (70), Soren Kjeldsen (70) of Denmark and India's Jyoti Randhawa (70) for third at one over.

With the soft course playing so tough with strong winds that are not likely to let up, organizers said the rough inside the ropes would be slightly lowered for the final two days.

Niclas Fasth (70) barely kept his Order of Merit hopes alive with an eagle-three at No. 17, the Swede going into the clubhouse at three-over to trail Rose by six. Fasth and fellow Swede Henrik Stenson (78) can only capture the European Tour's money title by taking the first-place winner's cheque of 666,660 euros. Stenson trailed Rose by 16 strokes.

Scott Verplank birdied six of his first nine holes, then had pars the rest of the way for a second straight six-under 66 on Friday that gave him a one-shot lead over Tad Ridings, Stephen Ames and Ryan Armour after two rounds of the Children's Miracle Network Classic.

"I got out of rhythm just a little bit and kind of struggled to find it," said Verplank, who was at 12-under 132. "But I got on such a nice roll in the first nine holes that I didn't just kill myself by making a bunch of pars."

Unlike Verplank, who is 15th on the US golf tour's order of merit, Ridings has split time playing on the regular tour and the developmental Nationwide Tour. He entered this week 210th on the order of merit and needing victory to keep his card for next year.

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