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High Class Field Assembles in Heidelberg
Europe’s Number One, Ernie Els, and defending champion, Padraig Harrington, headline one of the strongest fields of the year this week for the Deutsche Bank – SAP Open TPC of Europe, which returns to St Leon Rot, Heidelberg, with record prize money of €3,000,000 on offer.

The top 18 players from the current Volvo Order of Merit, led by World Number Three Els, are in action chasing the first prize of €500,000. The South African currently leads the Volvo Order of Merit with €929,045 from Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiménez, the only multiple winner to date on The 2004 European Tour International Schedule with three successes to his name.

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke is third, England’s Barry Lane fourth and Harrington in fifth lead the chasing pack seeking close the gap at the top.

Els missed the event last year through a wrist injury but has kept his promise to the fans to return this year.

Ireland’s Harrington, the World Number Eight and second highest ranked player in the field after Els, won the title 12 months ago when he defeated fellow Ryder Cup player Thomas Björn of Denmark at the first hole of a sudden-death play-off at Gut Kaden, Hamburg, after the pair tied on 19 under par 269.

“The victory last year was one of the greatest of my career and it was an overwhelming feeling to win one of Europe’s most important titles. I will do all I can to defend this title.” said Harrington, whose appearance in Germany will be his first on European soil in 2004 following a globetrotting start to the season.

Lane will reach the landmark figure of 500 European Tour events when he tees up at St Leon Rot brimming with confidence after winning The Daily Telegraph Damovo British Masters at the Marriott Forest of Arden a fortnight ago. Lane had gone ten years without a victory but will be keen to mark the special occasion this week with another fine performance.

The field is strengthened further by the presence of Oen Champion, Ben Curtis, the 2001 and 2002 Volvo Order of Merit winner Retief Goosen of South Africa, the World Number 11, seven time Volvo Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie of Scotland and former World Number One Nick Price of Zimbabwe, winner of three Major Championships.

Alex Cejka, Tobias Dier and Marcel Siem, all winners on The European Tour International Schedule, lead the home challenge seeking to emulate Europe’s Ryder Cup Captain Bernhard Langer, winner of the event in 1983 and 1995.

The Deutsche Bank – SAP Open, TPC of Europe is hosted by St Leon Rot for the fourth time, World Number One Tiger Woods winning the three previous editions in 1999, 2001 and 2002.

Courtesy of www.europeantour.com  

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