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Faldo ends on a high

Nick Faldo left here on a positive note, shooting his best round of the week, a four-under-par 68, to finish the Tucson Open at nine under par, though nine strokes off the lead as it stood when he signed his scorecard, and probably just out of th e top 25 finishers.

Describing his week overall, Faldo said, "It was good. I enjoyed it, and that's the main thing. My game's good, my swing's good. There are no trouble areas, which is nice. It's nice to be able to go up, see it, and hit it."

Faldo had no complaints about the state of his game, explaining the discrepancy between his statements and his scoring as the difficulty in reading fast greens his first week out.

"I missed a lot of putts, but I don't think it is anything technical, I just need to get used to the greens. I'm looking forward to Phoenix next week. I want to come out of the box the first two days, and then I'm off and running."

This was his first week as a member of the US tour after a five-year absence, and Faldo said that his reception from the American players was warm. "It's been very nice. I feel like Barbra Steisand coming back after 25 years - well, we've both got big noses.

"I've got some status, I know a lot of the guys. I think people are saying this time that it's good for the tour. And I promise I won't take any money out of the country, I'll spend it all here."

In the tournament's main action, the three overnight leaders, Phil Mickelson, Brett Ogle and Jim Gallagher Jnr, tried to fend off a crowd of would-be contenders. At the start of the round there were 18 players within six shots, after nine holes the mob had thinned only slightly. Five players were within two strokes of Gallagher's lead, and 11 within five strokes.

Gallagher, whose last notable performance was in the 1993 Ryder Cup, shot a 32 on the front nine to get to 18 under par. He bogeyed the 10th, bringing his lead over Mickelson and the former US Open champion Scott Simpson down to just a stroke. Two shots back were Ogle and the Tucson native Jim Furyk, who was five under after 13.

NORTHERN TELECOM OPEN (Tucson, Arizona) Leading early final scores (US unless stated): 274 W Austin 68 69 70 67. 275 T Purtzer 65 71 70 69; B Chamblee 70 71 68 66. 276 H Sutton 70 71 69 66; N Henke 70 67 70 69. 277 G McCord 72 68 71 66; J Cook 74 67 70 66; S Pate 71 69 70 67; P Jordan 68 72 69 68; L Clements 69 71 68 69; T Armour III 70 66 71 70; R Cochran 68 69 70 70. 278 N Faldo (Eng) 70 70 70 68; B Vaughan 72 69 70 67; L Janzen 72 70 68 68; S Stricker 70 71 69 68; J Maggert 68 74 68 68; D Barr (Can) 71 67 70 70; B Wadkins 69 69 70 70.