Gustafson moves seven ahead as Webb is penalised

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Sophie Gustafson of Sweden stretched her lead to seven strokes at the Women's British Open at Southport today as Karrie Webb suffered a two-stroke penalty for a rules infraction at the first hole.

Sophie Gustafson of Sweden stretched her lead to seven strokes at the Women's British Open at Southport today as Karrie Webb suffered a two-stroke penalty for a rules infraction at the first hole.

The Australian took a drop from a sprinkler head and was informed at the end of her round that was illegal. Her apparent birdie four became a bogey six and her round a 1-under-par 72 instead of 70.

With Gustafson shooting a solid but unspectacular 2-under 71 to lead American Meg Mallon and Kathryn Marshall of Scotland by seven shots, Webb found herself in a six-way tie for fourth place instead of alone in second.

Mallon, winner of last week's Du Maurier Classic in Canada, also carded 71. Marshall had 73.

"I dropped it three inches away from where I was supposed to," said Webb, who dropped her ball within a club's length of where it lay behind the sprinkler head instead of at the nearest point of relief, as the local rule stated.

"If I had dropped it three inches closer on the blade of grass that was my relief point, I would have been all right.

"I am probably going to have to practice my dropping anyway because I don't think I could have been that accurate," she said acidly.

Webb said she did not object to the penalty.

"It's the rules. Golf has some of the most ridiculous rules and this is just another one to add to the list," she said.

She conceded she had erred by not calling for a ruling when she was on the first hole but she misinterpreted the rule and did not want to delay play.

She said she read the local rules sheet and also the relevant page in the full rule book.

"I should have just called for a ruling. I misinterpreted the rule. You think you are doing the right thing by not slowing play up and it ends up costing you two shots."

Rain had delayed play for almost two hours during the morning, before the leaders had begun, and the Royal Birkdale changed in character as the wind blew up after the rain stopped.

Only one player broke 70, American Michelle McGann with a 69 after an eagle-birdie finish.

Gustafson, after her 7-under 66 had given her a three-shot lead Friday, did not have to do anything dramatic as she more than doubled her advantage.

"This course suits me so well if someone is going to catch me they are going to have to shoot a very low score," said the Swede, who tied for second place at this tournament two years ago at Royal Lytham.

Her closest rival after two rounds, LPGA Champion Juli Inkster, had a disastrous mid-round that included six successive bogeys from the 8th hole. She finished with a 77 and is now nine adrift of the Swede.

"It is an untypical course so it can happen to anybody," said Gustafson, who played with Inkster in the final group."

The Swede, 26, winner of the Chick-Fil-A Charity Classic in Atlanta this year, avoided Webb's mistake when she called for a ruling at the 7th hole after her ball appeared to have moved as she addressed it.

She was told to carry on without penalty or without having to replace her ball.

Gustafson opened with a birdie four then rattled off 10 solid pars before missing the green at the short 12th to take her only bogey. Then she birdied the last two par-5s and is now 11-under for the last four holes through three rounds.

Mallon said she was saved by her putter throughout her round, saving par on several occasions. Her only bogey was at the 2nd hole.

Mallon said the raid had made the course more challenging. "It was difficult to judge what clubs to select," she said.

Marshall also birdied the last two holes to draw level with Mallon in second place.

Collated third round scores and totals Weetabix Women's British Open at Royal Birkdale, Southport (GB and Irl unless stated):

207 S Gustafson (Sweden) 70 66 71 214 M Mallon (USA) 74 69 71, K Marshall 72 69 73 215 K Booth (USA) 73 71 71, L Neumann (Swe) 71 73 71, T Johnson 71 72 72, J Lidback (Per) 71 71 73, K Webb (Aus) 68 75 72, B Iverson (USA) 70 70 75 216 M McKay 74 71 71, J Inkster 70 69 77 217 M McGann (USA) 72 76 69, B Burton (USA) 72 74 71, A Sorenstam (Swe) 70 76 71, L Philo (USA) 72 73 72, K Taylor 71 74 72, R Jones (USA) 72 72 73, J McGill (USA) 71 71 76 218 L Davies 76 70 72, R Hetherington 71 74 72, K Weiss (USA) 73 70 75 219 P Sterner (Swe) 77 72 70, S Redman 70 78 71, W Daden 77 71 71, R Carriedo (Spa) 76 71 72, V Goetze-Ackerman (USA) 77 69 72, J Forbes 72 73 74, M Monnet (Fra) 72 73 74, A Dibos (Per) 72 73 74, P Bradley (USA) 74 71 74, A-M Knight (Aus) 73 71 75 220 H Alfredsson (Swe) 78 71 71, K Robbins (USA) 73 74 73, J Moodie 73 74 73, B King (USA) 74 73 73, M Redman (USA) 74 73 73, L-A Mills (USA) 74 72 74, M Feldot (USA) 75 71 74 221 L Depaulo (USA) 81 73 71, G Graham (Can) 79 71 71, J Head 77 73 71, T Barrett 77 72 72 222 E Esterl (Ger) 75 75 72, S Gronberg (Swe) 80 69 73, S Mendiburu (Fra) 77 72 73, M Estill (USA) 72 75 75, M Will (USA) 74 72 76, R Higashio (Jpn) 74 72 76 223 K Stupples 73 77 73, S Mehra (Ind) 75 75 73, S Eklund (Swe) 75 75 73, F Dassu (Ita) 77 73 73, S Arricau (Fra) 78 71 74, S Cavalleri (Ita) 79 70 74, M Hjorth (Swe) 76 72 75, S Waugh (Aus) 73 74 76 224 K Pearce (Aus) 74 76 74, K Parker (USA) 75 74 75, A Takamura (Jpn) 73 76 75, L Maritz (Rsa) 71 76 77, Y P Ling (Tpe) 73 74 77 225 A Berg (Swe) 73 77 75, J Van Hagen (Ned) 76 74 75, H Kobayashi (Jpn) 75 74 76, G Sergas (Ita) 77 70 78, D Reid 76 71 78 226 G Scott (Nzl) 78 72 76, N Karlsson (Swe) 77 73 76, E Klein (USA) 72 77 77 227 M Lunn (Aus) 80 69 78, M Adamson (Rsa) 78 71 78, C Nilsmark (Swe) 77 72 78, L Fairclough 76 71 80 230 H-F Tseng (Tpe) 76 73 81

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