England’s Justin Rose believes that Valderrama will be a bigger rival than Pádraig Harrington in the race to become European No 1 at next week’s Volvo Masters.
The 27-year-old Englishman finished in a ten-way tied for 21st place in the Portugal Masters at Vilamoura’s Victoria Club, where countryman Steve Webster scorched to record-breaking two-stroke win from Sweden’s Robert Karlsson on 25 under par thanks to a final round 64.
A closing 70 left Rose 12 strokes off the pace and while he earned €30,750, he is €657 adrift of Harrington and €217,952 behind Order of Merit leader Ernie Els heading into the season-ending extravaganza at Jaime Patiño’s Spanish masterpiece.
Els has already finished his European campaign which means that Rose and Harrington can snatch the Order of Merit title with a top-three finish next week.
But Rose insists that cannot afford to get distracted watching Harrington’s progress and will instead concentrate his efforts on defeating the course and lifting the €666,660 top prize.
“I've closed the gap on Padraig and on Ernie,” said Rose, who will work hard on his putting in the build up to next week. “But the goal is to go there and win the tournament. If you do that, you win the Order of Merit. It is a double whammy.
“Pádraig is a tough competitor and he has got a great track record. But the ultimate competitor is the golf course and that's what I am trying to break down.”
The Volvo Masters will be a far tougher proposition than the inaugural Portugal Masters, where Webster came from two strokes behind overnight leader Daniel Vancsik of Argentina to shave a stroke off the lowest 72 hole winning aggregate as well as the lowest closing round by a winner.
After blowing the Madrid Open last week by running up a quintuple bogey nine at the fifth, Vancsik had to settle for third place for the second week running after another unforced error.
This time the pivotal moment came at the par-five 12th, where Webster set up an eagle three with a towering five-iron to eight feet as the Argentinian hooked his drive into the lake in the match behind en route to a 71.
Deeply affected by the death of his mother in May, Webster confessed that when the summer campaign began, he was more worried about retaining his card than adding to his Italian Open win of 2005.
But top ten finishes in Loch Lomond, Germany and Russia turned his season around and the was emotional at the finish as he dedicated his victory to his mother.
“It was so hard there coming down the stretch,” Webster said, “because I was thinking about my Mum all the time. I know she was watching out for me today.”
Rory McIlroy closed with a 68 left him in joint 56th place on seven under par and 94th in the Order of Merit with €277,255 from just four professional starts.
The Ulster teenager plans to hitch a lift home on a friend’s private jet today to begin a much needed three-week break before resuming his bid for his maiden victory in next month’s UBS Hong Kong Open and MasterCard Masters in Australia
“I am just going to be like a normal teenager and do absolutely nothing,” McIlroy said, after a frustrating week on the greens. “I got a little aggravated at times, but I think that is just down to tiredness. I will have a couple of weeks off and start back fresh. I am just looking forward to everything ahead of me next year.
“My goal is just go out and play golf and I know if I go out and do that I am good enough to win. Once you get into the knack (of winning), it is not long before you know how to do it again.”
Dubliner Peter Lawrie broke par every day the first time this season to finish as the best of the Irish in a share of 16th place on 14 under par after a 68 and heads to Mallorca needing a top three finish to qualify for the Volvo Masters.
Gary Murphy put in a barnstorming eagle-birdie finish to finish joint 31st on 12 under after a 69 but Damien McGrane could only manage a level par 72 that left him 64th in the 73-man field on four under par.