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Saturday, 04 November 2000
Henrik Stenson is on course to win his third title of the year in the 2nd Cuba Challenge Tour Grand Final in Cuba and with it the honour of finishing top of the Order of Merit.

Only a complete disaster can deprive him of the latter. He is virtually untouchable as his two man rivals, David Higgins and Carlos Rodiles, are trailing well behind the galloping Swede in the tournament.

Stenson leads the tournament by four strokes on 15-under-par 201 after a scintillating course record 65, which contained eight birdies. His nearest challenger is Andrew Raitt after the Scot carded a 67, while England’s Simon Hurd is a stroke further back on 20 after a 69, which had a sensational start.

The 25-year-old, who must finish at least fourth to gain his card, was five under after four holes after starting eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie. It put him on 11 under for the tournament but he was unable to improve on that and two bogeys one at the last dropped him back to nine under.

Stenson, who was paired again with Higgins and Rodiles, was just as impressive with five birdies in his opening seven holes to race ahead on 13 under. He dropped a shot on the short eighth but three more birdies in a homeward 33 saw him turn the screw on his rivals.

“It was really good for me to play with David and Carlos because it meant I knew what had to do,” said the 24-year-old Swede. “My ball striking has not been great but my putting has been very good. Tomorrow I will just try to keep on going just like the Duracell rabbits.”

Having secured the Order of Merit, Stenson wants to finish off the job by taking the title as well. It seems that the rest are just fighting for the places but there is a lot to play for.

Raitt, who must finish second on his own to gain his card, had six birdies in his 67 and achieved his first aim, which is playing in the last group in the final round. “I wanted to be in the final group then you can control your own destiny,” he said.

Scotland’s Graham Rankin, who shot 71 for 212 and is joint 11th, needs to shoot fewer than 70 to jump into the top 15, while there are three players under pressure to stay in the top 15. England’s Shaun Webster, Jean Hugo from South Africa, and Marco Bernardini from Italy, are all near the end of the field and could easily lose their places.

But Erol Simsek from Germany carded a 66 to jump into joint third alongside Hurd and Trevor Immelman from South Africa.

Stenson’s course record 65 was equalled by two others fellow Swede Mikael Lundberg and Gregory Havret from France, who holed a pitching wedge from 14 yards for an eagle-two at the 15th to record his lowest Challenge Tour round.

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