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Rose becomes Europe new No. 1

Autor:[PA SportsTicker] Date:[2007-11-5 17:52:04]

CADIZ, Spain (Ticker) - Eight years ago, Justin Rose looked like he never may make it as a professions. Now, he's European golf's new No. 1.

But how Rose had to work the Volvo Masters as well at Valderrama Sunday, going from strokes up to one behind before beating Simon Dyson and Soren Kjeldsen with a 14-foot birdie putt on the second hole of a sudden death playoff.

Rose, still an amateur and only 17 when he came a magical fourth in the 1998 British Open, began his pro career with an unbelievable 21 successive missed cuts and had to wait 11 months to earn his first penny on the course.

But today he leapt from third to first on the Order of Merit with over $4 million with a victory which also takes him into the world's top 10 for the first time.

"I am emotional right now," he said. "It was a hard day. I looked like losing and dug deep. I'm sure there's an easy way to do this stuff, but it was terrible. I made a couple of mental errors and even saw the Order of Merit slipping away.

"It's awesome to do it. Knowing that I had was a nice consolation going into the playoff, but I wanted to do it by winning the tournament. It's been a long road to get here. You need to win tournaments to be regarded as a great player and it would have been very disappointing if I hadn't won this."

It was his first victory since the Australian Masters last November.

With Padraig Harrington coming "only" fourth in his bid to keep his money list title - he had to be third to have a chance - Rose is now seventh in the world rankings just ahead of the Open champion.

Four strokes clear after the second and third rounds, the 27-year-old still held that advantage after 10 holes and was making the task appear no harder than a walk in the park.

But suddenly things went haywire. In two bunkers down the long 11th he ran up a double bogey seven, then dropped further shots on the 13th and 14th.

It was bad enough that he fell into a tie, but then Kjeldsen birdied the 17th to lead on his own minutes after playing Graeme McDowell had holed a 176-yard seven-iron for only the second albatross there in the tournament's history.

Sadly McDowell, having momentarily taken a share of the lead himself, then double-bogeyed the last to fall into a tie for fourth with Harrington.

Rose, helped by a lucky bounce out of the trees, parred the 16th and when he and Dyson both birdied the downwind 17th they were tied at two under.

However, neither made the green in three let alone two at the last and bogey fives gave Kjeldsen another chance.

After all had parred the 18th when the play-off started they went to the adjoining 10th and with Kjeldsen missing from 18 feet Rose's birdie putt ended his hopes.

Dyson was only 12 feet away but his putt to stay alive just missed and Rose grabbed the $977,007 winner's check along with everything else that came with it.

The first prize swept him past not only Harrington, but also Ernie Els, who rather than trying for a third money list crown honoured a commitment to play in Singapore instead.

"The pinnacle of my career so far," stated Rose, youngest winner of the Order of Merit since Ronan Rafferty did it aged 25 in 1989.

Note the words "so far". Rose very much wants this just to be a stepping stone to greater things. Asked two weeks ago if he would rather end his career with eight Order of Merits -

Colin Montgomerie's record number - or a major, he had no hesitation in replying: "A major."

There have been chances already. Apart from that staggering performance at Royal Birkdale - by pitching in at the last he finished only one behind Tiger Woods and two behind play-off pair Mark O'Meara and Brian Watts - he led the 2004 Masters after two rounds and back at Augusta this April was only one behind Zach Johnson with two to play, but double-bogeyed the 17th.

Top-12 finishes in all four majors this season and second place behind Woods in a World Championship event in Ohio made the Order of Merit title a possibility in spite of all the time he spends on the PGA Tour.

Rose has achieved the top spot playing in only 12 counting events compared to the 15 of Harrington and 18 of Els.

With the South African not playing at Valderrama, Rose and Harrington knew that a top-three finish would take them past him and that they could then focus on their duel.

Harrington had the edge teeing off on Thursday, but that changed the moment Rose holed-in-one at the third. And although Harrington got back on level terms when Rose made a shaky start to his third round he could not prevent the gap opening up again.

A 10-foot birdie putt to open his final round and cut the gap to three raised Harrington's belief that it was possible to repeat his success of a year ago, when he came through from 20th to second on the last day to pip Paul Casey for the money list.

But he did not have another birdie until the short 15th and when he followed that with a bogey and a par on the long 17th it was over for him unless Rose collapsed over the closing stretch.

That did not happen. Rose got what he deserved - albeit with a huge sigh of relief.

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