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Friday, 19 March 2010
Portugal Masters - Round 2  (Getty Images)
Portugal Masters - Round 2 (Getty Images)

Clubhouse leader Søren Hansen is in a prime position to win a first European Tour event of the season - but the Dane still believes joint leader Robert Karlsson is the man to beat going into the last day.

Karlsson, odds-on to hang on to his lead in the Order of Merit, leads the Portugal Masters on 14 under par, alongside Ross Fisher of England and Spain’s Álvaro Quirós.

But none of the three leaders were able to complete their round as thunderstorms hit the Oceânico Victoria Golf Course, with the remaining third round play suspended until 7.50am local time on Sunday.

Hansen, meanwhile, went out with four birdies in a front nine score of 32, before holding steady on the return to card a 65, the second lowest round of the day.

“It’s definitely exciting,” Hansen said afterwards. “I’ve had a lot of top tens this year and I haven't really finished the job off.

“Maybe tomorrow is the day, and I'm playing well enough. It's just a matter of going out and getting the job done, and there's a lot of good guys around you.

“It was very solid today. I played really well. I'm really happy to make the par on the last because I hit a poor shot in and I was faced with a long putt.”

Karlsson and Fisher, playing together only two weeks after they clashed in a play-off for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, were both on 14 under par and on the 17th green when officials decided it was too dangerous to continue.

The big-hitting Quirós was on the same mark and still had five holes of his third round to complete, but halfway leader Stuart Manley - 174th on the money list and 575th in the world - was only joint sixth after crashing to a triple-bogey seven at the seventh.

Hansen, 32nd in the Order of Merit, is in no doubt as to the strength of the man 31 places above him in the rankings.

“Robert Karlsson is in very fine form. I think he's the man to catch,” Hansen added. “But as I said before, you have to concentrate on your own thing and you can't control what they are doing.

“If the weather stays as it is, it's probably going to be another day with a lot of birdies, so anything can happen.

“I've always followed Robert closely because we are good friends. I like the way he plays and he's very solid.

“He's worked hard for many, many years, and now he's getting the reward and it's great to see.”
 
The odds on Karlsson winning the Order of Merit title were coming down all the time as Lee Westwood, third on the table, three-putted four times in a level-par 72 that kept him on five under.

Fisher said that even if Karlsson contrives to lose his lead in the Order of Merit, he is still the best player on the European Tour.

“Robert wants to try and win the Order of Merit, which I think even if he doesn't, he fully deserves it,” said Fisher.

“He's played some fantastic golf this year, and I've been fortunate enough to play well a few times and he's been the best player on The European Tour by a mile.

“Padraig has won two majors, and hats off, you can't take that away from the guy, to win back to back Opens is phenomenal and to obviously win the PGA.

“But for me I think just think consistency, Robert has been far superior this year.

“It was good fun playing out there today. I had a run of five birdies in a row. Unfortunately it dried up a bit on the back nine, but who knows. If I can knock the putt in and par the last, it will be a decent round.”

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1QUIROS, AlvaroESP18-19
2LAWRIE, PaulSCO18-16
T3FISHER, RossENG18-15
T3WEBSTER, SteveENG18-15
T3KARLSSON, RobertSWE18-15
6KINGSTON, JamesRSA18-14
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