A strong field will be lining up tomorrow morning for the opening round of the Mallorca Classic, the penultimate event on the European Tour – and there is plenty still to play for. The main focus will be on the race for the Volvo Order of Merit, as two of the four players in contention will be competing.
Padraig Harrington (pictured) can overtake Paul Casey at the top if he takes home the ?291,660 first prize. Harrington only scheduled this week into his calendar after his win at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship two weeks ago. With the realisation that he is in serious contention for the Order of Merit he was allowed to enter the event late. With David Howell at home trying to recover from his shoulder injury, Robert Karlsson has the opportunity to move into third place with a good performance this week.
Pula GC on the island of Mallorca will again provide a fascinating setting for the important event. The Jose Maria Olazabal designed course provides a tougher test than the 6,263 yards may suggest. There are only two par fives and a number of long, tough par threes surrounded by water.
Olazabal will be trying to become a double winner on the course he designed after taking victory last season. He will also be attempting to continue a Spanish winning streak at the event, which was won by Sergio Garcia in 2004 and Miguel Angel Jimenez in 2003, which was the inaugural staging of the tournament. Garcia starts as favourite for the event with the bookmakers, closely followed by Harrington.
Notable players attempting to become the first non-Spanish winner of the event include Paul McGinley, making up a total of five European Ryder Cup representatives. After the disappointment of not being selected for the Ryder Cup, Thomas Bjorn will have a point to prove. The in-form Bradley Dredge will also appear and is one of the favourites with the bookies.
As ever at this time of year, the focus for many players is a world away from the Order of Merit winner. The real pressure will be for those chasing a place in the top 115 to secure their playing privileges for next season. There is also the top 60 to fight for, with a place in the end of season Volvo Masters at stake for those who make it.