Golf: Leonard leads the hot pursuit

US PGA: Open champion hauls himself level with Love before the storms throw their duel off course
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The Independent Online
In His own quiet way, the Open champion Justin Leonard simply continued his exemplary play from Royal Troon to be in a share of the lead when the third round of the US PGA Championship was interrupted by a severe storm. At six under, Leonard and Davis Love had opened up a five- stroke lead on Lee Janzen and Jeff Maggert.

A combination of burning heat and the back-bending Winged Foot course had taken its toll on all the other challengers to leave only these four players under par. A three-birdie, no-bogey 67 from Colin Montgomerie lifted the Scot from 57th place to 12th, but at two over he was still some eight strokes behind the leaders.

Leonard, trying to emulate Nick Price three years ago in winning the last two majors of the year, was four under for his round playing the last, having not dropped a shot. It was another brilliant putting display from the 25-year-old Texan, although the emphasis was slightly different from the first two rounds, when he outscored his fellow 1997 major winners, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els.

"I holed a lot of five to eight footers for par over the first two days. It was nice to be putting for birdies today," Leonard said. Of his new status he added: "I'm more comfortable with the situation I'm in."

Love, who has yet to win a major and is being pushed for the 10th place on the American Ryder Cup standings by Maggert, was three under for the day with four to play, while Janzen, the overnight leader, slipped back with three bogeys.

Somewhat sweaty on a day when the heat index was over 100, Montgomerie was realistic about his chances of challenging today. "Everything would have to go brilliantly. It would have to be another Irish Open job," he said in reference to his closing 62 at the Druids Glen last month. "Today was better, but it was still a bit fragile, not as good as it should be."

It could have been, however. He missed from 20 feet for eagle at the fifth, from eight feet for birdie at the seventh and left putts on the lip at the ninth and tenth. But Monty's patience was finally rewarded when he hit an eight-iron to six feet at the 15th and a nine-iron to the same distance at the 17th and holed both putts.

"It looks like another empty year in the majors," Montgomerie, the US Open runner-up, added. "I was close at Congressional, but not close enough. But I have other goals, like the Ryder Cup and the money list is not lost yet."

Although Lee Westwood, who has not finished worse than 24th in a major this year, scored a creditable 71, Montgomerie became the leading European as Ignacio Garrido had a 75 and Thomas Bjorn a 77, while Costantino Rocca went to the turn in 43.

Those hanging on to the top of the leaderboard also had their problems. Phil Mickelson took two to get out of a bunker at the par-five fifth to take a seven and later suffered a triple bogey at the 16th. Woods had two double bogeys, at the fourth and the 17th, and a bogey at the 18th left the Masters champion at one over. "I hurt my ego," Woods replied to questions about whether he was injured hacking out of the rough at the last. "I'm pissed off," he added for the benefit of television viewers.

Woods spent a lot of the day in the long grass and his recoveries did not always go as planned. Having missed the green in three at 17, his first chip with a three-wood moved the ball only a foot. When they did come off, however, they were spectacular, as when, with a restricted backswing, he carved a six-iron out of the trees on to the green. And as a demonstration of how Woods can overpower even this course it came when his 358-yard drive left him with a seven iron approach at the par-five 12th and the eagle landed.

Despite the US Ryder Cup captain Tom Kite, who finished at level par, saying earlier in the week that the US PGA "is not the 'Q' school for the Ryder Cup," it has been impossible to avoid the sub-plot here. For Europe, the most significant news was confirmation that Nick Faldo, if he is to make a record 11th appearance in the Ryder Cup, will do so only at the invitation of Seve Ballesteros. Like Jose Maria Olazabal, Faldo missed the cut, the first time he has done so in two majors in the same year.

"I'm a captain's choice now, it's as simple as that," Faldo hoped, saying he promised to pitch up on the Costa del Sol early. "I'll make sure I'm absolutely 100 per cent ready for Valderrama," Faldo said. "If all goes to plan, if Seve picks me, I'll go down a week before so I'm in tune for everything."

Jesper Parnevik, a rival for Ballesteros's wild cards, made the cut by birdieing two of the last four holes on Friday and yesterday added a 71. But Montgomerie cannot quite comprehend that the six-time major winner might not make the team.

"It sounds incredible that he might not play," Montgomerie said. "A team without Faldo has to be a worse team. He is one of the few people who can stand on the first tee and start one up. No one works harder and wherever he is, he will be working on his game right now."

Scores from Winged Foot

(US unless stated)

Early third-round scores

210

T Kite 68 71 71

211

T Woods 70 70 71; J Furyk 69 72 72; D Duval 70 70 71; S Hoch 71 72 68

212

C Perry 68 71 73; P Stewart 70 70 72; P Azinger 68 73 71; S McCarron 74 71 67; F Nobilo (NZ) 72 73 67; C Montgomerie (GB) 74 71 67; T Byrum 69 73 70

213

T Lehman 69 71 72; J Furyk 69 72 72; J Haas 71 69 73; P Goydos 70 72 71; L Westwood (GB) 74 68 71; T Herron 72 73 68

214

K Perry 73 68 73; N Price (Zimb) 72 70 72; H Irwin 73 70 71; J Sindelaar 72 71 71; S Elkington (Aus) 72 72 70; S Appleby (Aus) 75 70 69

215

V Singh 73 66 76; P-U Johansson (Swe) 73 69 73; B Tway 68 75 72; E Romero (Arg) 71 72 72

216

L Rinker 70 71 75; I Garrido (Sp) 70 71 75; T Smith 71 71 74; R Goosen (SA) 72 70 74; J Cook 71 71 74; D Pooley 72 74 70; S Torrance (GB) 74 72 70; R Black 76 69 71

217

T Bjorn 72 68 77; S Jones 69 73 75; M O'Meara 69 73 75; O Browne 70 73 74; B Henninger 74 68 75; J Parnevik (Swe) 76 70 71; D Ogrin 74 72 71; R Cochran 72 73 72; L Mize 71 73 73

218

B Mayfair 75 68 75; T Tolles 75 70 73; M Calcavecchia 71 74 73; C Stadler 72 72 74

219

K Sutherland 73 73 73

220

S Lowery 72 69 79; L Roberts 76 70 74; E Els (SA) 76 70 74

221

A Magee 71 70 80; P Jordan 76 70 75; P Jacobsen 74 72 75; Y Kaneko (Japan) 72 73 76; L Wadkins 72 72 77

222

M Bradley 73 69 80; F Funk 71 74 77; L Nelson 76 70 76

Leading second- round scores

136 L Janzen 69 67

137 D Love 66 71

138 C Rocca (It) 69 69; J Maggert 69 69; P Blackmar 70 68; S Maruyama (Japan) 68 70; P Mickelson 69 69; F Couples 71 67; J Leonard 68 70

139 P Stankowski 68 71; G Norman (Aus) 68 71; J Daly 66 73

Non-qualifiers

147 B Andrade 72 75 B Boyd 71 76; R Fehr 72 75; J Carter 73 74; D Frost (SA) 76 71; L Mattiace 72 75

148 G Day 76 72; C Parry (Aus) 74 74; F Zoeller 73 75; S Stricker 73 75; D Toms 73 75; BR Brown 76 72; P Harrington (Ire) 77 71; J Lankford 72 76; R Philo 72 76; R Damron 76 72

149 J Mazza 71 78; C Toulson 75 74; M Brooks 70 79; P Broadhurst (GB) 74 75; B Ford 74 75; M Brisky 75 74; I Woosnam (GB) 77 72; J Overton 77 72

150 J Stone 75 75; J Nicklaus 74 76; R Gamez 74 76; D Hart 74 76; N Ozaki (Japan) 75 75; T Watson 71 79; K Gibson 76 74; M Hulbert 75 75

151 B Sowards 74 77; S Cink 76 75; B Chamblee 77 74; C Rose 74 77; B Faxon 73 78; J Sluman 74 77; J D Blake 73 78

152 M Burke 77 75; J M Olazabal (Sp) 79 73; D Waldorf 74 78; E Fiori 76 76; S Schneiter 75 78

153 B Zabriski 76 77; C Tucker 78 75; D Clarke (GB) 74 79; C Strange 76 77; F Dobbs 80 73; N Faldo (GB) 75 78

154 P Lonard (Aus) 75 79; B Makoski 79 75; M Standly 76 78

155 P Oakley 78 77; G Boros 74 81; B Watts 78 77; J Lee 74 81

156 R Wilkin 78 78; H Sutton 78 78

157 J White 82 75; B Crenshaw 77 80

158 J Mason 78 80; W Grady (Aus) 79 79

160 J Hickson 76 84

162 D Kestner 79 83

163 M Fuller 79 84

165 B Taylor 82 83

Withdrew: M Wiebe; J Mahaffey; F Minoza (Phil)

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