Queasy does it for laid-back Lebouc

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The Independent Online

It is not the sort of problem Tiger Woods will ever have to face while trying to win a major championship. Patricia Meunier Lebouc is 12 weeks pregnant and beset by morning sickness but leads the Weetabix Women's British Open by one stroke ahead of today's final round.

Lebouc, who is married to the former European Tour player, Antoine, equalled the best round of the day with a 67 to be 10 under par on a links that has brought out the best in the game's best players.

Pak Se Ri, the 2001 champion, is lying second with America's Wendy Ward and then come the big two, Annika Sorenstam at eight under and Karrie Webb, the three-time champion, a further stroke back.

Lebouc had a crazy start when she collected an eagle, four birdies and two bogeys in the first seven holes but she then parred her way home except for a birdie at the 17th. On one of the most fearsome closing stretches in golf it was an impressive display which only Sorenstam came close to matching by getting to four under for the day at the 11th and then parring in. In contrast, Ward bogeyed the last and Pak the last two holes.

The 30-year-old Frenchwoman felt better yesterday after almost not making it to the course on Friday morning. Apart from "not having any pleasure from eating", unfortunate for a gastronomic Gallic, Lebouc has tried to use her morning sickness to her advantage. "It is helping me to keep calm," she said. "I am just trying to enjoy being on the course."

Lebouc won the Nabisco Championship in March to land her first major championship and knows how it feels to hold off the powerful players who are lined up behind her. But she said: "All the great players are up there. In the British Open in these conditions things can change very quickly."

It is for such days that Sorenstam, the undisputed women's No 1, craves. Having already won the LPGA Championship, by adding the British Open she would have won both of those that had eluded her in the past. Her experience in playing at the men's Colonial event in May can only have helped.

"The Colonial was a special experience and whether it helps tomorrow or not, in the long term it will do. I believe I have become a better player. To experience the challenge of that week, the pressure, all the preparation I went through, taught me so much about my game and myself."

Karen Stupples kept alive the possibility of a Kentish Open double when she got to six under par. Ben Curtis, the champion at Sandwich a fortnight ago, may be from Kent, Ohio, but Stupples genuinely heralds from the Garden of England and honed her game at the formidable Cinque Ports links in Deal. The 30-year-old, now based in Florida, finished with three bogeys in the last four holes to share the honour of being leading home player with Becky Morgan at three under.

Even if Stupples wins here she is not currently eligible to play for Europe in the Solheim Cup in Sweden next month. Stupples is not, and never has been, a member of the European Tour. After an amateur career that included two Curtis Cup appearances, Stupples went straight to the US circuit and her ranking has risen every year.

Last season she was 46th on the money list and this year she is currently 40th. Alas, the regulations governing the selection of the Solheim Cup team insist each player being a member of the European Tour and having played six events in the past two years.

"It's a new situation for me because I didn't know I was going to play so well this year and get myself into contention," Stupples, who has only played three times over here in the past two seasons, said. "Up until now I have been trying to establish myself in the States and become a more competitive player."

Stupples said she might consider playing the next three weeks in Europe if she was given invitations but added: "Maybe Europe would have a stronger team if the selection process was a little different. It's right there are regulations for the sake of the European Tour. Whether Catrin [Nilsmark, the captain] would be interested in picking me I don't know. It would be a great honour but there are so many other fantastic players."

It is one point of view, and a gracious one, but another is that one of the longest drivers on tour who is becoming an ever more steady performer might be an asset that should not be ruled out on a technicality.

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