Norman under early pressure

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The Independent Online

Greg Norman's two-shot overnight lead was quickly cut in half in the final round of the Open Championship at a windswept Royal Birkdale today.

Norman, at 53 looking to become the oldest ever major winner by five years, found a greenside bunker with his second shot to the 450-yard opening hole and failed to get up and down.

Playing partner Padraig Harrington, aiming to become the first European player to successfully defend the title since James Braid in 1906, was 50 yards short of the green in two but pitched within inches of the cup to save par.

Korea's KJ Choi had also started with a bogey to drop back to five over par, and England's Simon Wakefield was another to drop a shot at the first to lie six over.

In addition to the three tees moved forward for the third round officials reduced the 10th by 27 yards to 381 yards.

The winds, which reached over 45mph yesterday, were expected to stay just below 40mph throughout the final day, but still bad enough, of course, to blow any title contender off course.

The clubhouse lead was currently held by David Howell, Robert Karlsson and Ernie Els on 12 over par, Howell shooting the best round of the day with a 67 courtesy of four birdies and an eagle on the 17th.

Els carded a round of 69 to become the only player so far to record two rounds below 70, but all the damage was done by a back nine of 45 in his first round 80.

Norman's lead disappeared on the second hole when he again found rough off the tee, missed the green with his approach and missed from four feet for par.

And the Australian was soon one behind when he bogeyed the third as well, Harrington's opening three pars enough to lead on his own for the first time.

Wakefield then joined Norman in second place with a birdie from four feet on the fifth, and Bristol amateur Chris Wood was going superbly too, the 20-year-old picking up a birdie on the seventh to lie four off the lead.