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Page last updated at 19:18 GMT, Thursday, 16 October 2008 20:18 UK

Karlsson boosts Merit title bid

FIRST ROUND LEADERBOARD: (GB & Ire unless stated)
-7 S Manley -6 M Foster, A Quiros (Spa), J Randhawa (Ind) -5 M Erlandsson (Swe), S Kjeldsen (Den), J-F Lucquin (Fra), G McDowell, A McLardy (Rsa), S Walker
Selected others: -3 R Karlsson (Swe) Level L Westwood +1 M-A Jimenez (Spa)

Robert Karlsson
Karlsson is bidding for the first hat-trick of titles since Tiger Woods in 2006

Robert Karlsson moved another step closer to claiming the European Order of Merit with a three-under-par 69 in the Portugal Masters first round.

If he wins in Vilamoura then the absent Padraig Harrington, currently second in the standings, would have to win the season-ending Volvo Masters.

Karlsson is four shots off the pace being set by Welshman Stuart Manley.

Lee Westwood and Miguel Angel Jimenez, third and fourth in the money list respectively, carded a 72 and a 73.

"I played like a tired man that wants the year to end," said Westwood.

Karlsson is 112,000 clear of Harrington and is bidding for a rare hat-trick of wins having won the last two tournaments, in Cologne and then at St Andrews.

The 39-year-old admitted: "I didn't play great and made a couple of mistakes, but everyone is talking about the Order of Merit and I'm just trying to play this event. It's not that easy."

Harrington is not competing this week or next week as he decided to travel to Bermuda for the PGA Grand Slam.

For the second year running the Irishman lost a play-off at Mid-Ocean, with Jim Furyk claiming the 2008 edition of the four-man, 36-hole event.

Manley was a Walker Cup hero in 2003, but has had to make four trips to the Tour school since then and is labouring down in 174th on the money list with two events to go.

"I need some money," said the 29-year-old, who has missed the halfway cut in 20 of his 30 events and has to climb into the top 115 to avoid a return to qualifying.

"It's a good time to find form. I've been fantastic in practice, so it must be a mental issue somewhere.

"The greens were a bit bumpy (he was in the penultimate group of the day), but for some reason the putts went in."

With efforts from 30, 10 and 20 feet be birdied three of his last four to relegate England's Mark Foster, Indian Jyoti Randhawa and big-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros into second place.


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