Coceres leads in race for Troon

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The Independent Online

Jose Coceres shot a second successive three-under-par 68 to take a two-stroke lead in the John Deere Classic in Illinois on Saturday.

The 40-year-old Argentinian is trying to become the first start-to-finish winner on the PGA Tour this season. He had a comfortable five-shot lead after 13 holes of the third round, but his fortunes changed at the 17th.

Coceres is hoping to qualify for next week's Open as the highest finisher not already exempt at Royal Troon. While he had only a par, Greg Chalmers made birdie to get within four strokes and at the par-four 18th, Chalmers hit a five-iron to within two feet to set up another birdie while Coceres took three putts. That swing halved Coceres's lead and he ended the third round at 15 under, on 198.

Steve Stricker (64) was four strokes back along with six others. The defending champion, Vijay Singh, finished with a 67 to be in a group at 10 under.

Meanwhile, Sweden's Maria Sjorth was in record-breaking form as she claimed her first European Tour win in the English Ladies Open at Chart Hills in Kent. Two ahead going into the final round, the 30-year-old equalled the course record set earlier in the day by Lora Fairclough and set a 54-hole Tour winning record of a 19-under-par 197.

It was a hugely impressive performance that earned not only the £18,000 first prize but a place in the second richest event in women's golf, the £1.5m Evian Masters, in France in two weeks' time.

The Australian Joanne Mills, with a 68, was in second place a rather distant six shots back on 13 under par, while, Kent's Karen Stupples, also with a 68, tied for third place on 12 under with Sweden's Asa Gottmo, who had a 69.

In Michigan, Mark James fired a bogey-free five-under-par 67 to pull three strokes clear of the field after three rounds of the Senior Players Championship.

Only five months after having knee surgery, the Champions Tour rookie was 18 holes away from making this major tournament his first victory.

"All of us who play seniors golf think it's great that we can play when we're 50 and make a living," the Englishman said. "It's amazing. So to do really well and keep my card and win majors, that would be even better." James made two bogeys in three rounds, none over his last 24 holes, for a 54-hole total of 202, 14 under par.