Webb drops costly clanger

Sophie Gustafson of Sweden stretched her lead to seven strokes at the Weetabix Women's British Open here yesterday as the world No 1 Karrie Webb suffered a two-stroke penalty for a rules infringement on the first hole.

Sophie Gustafson of Sweden stretched her lead to seven strokes at the Weetabix Women's British Open here yesterday as the world No 1 Karrie Webb suffered a two-stroke penalty for a rules infringement on the first hole.

The Australian took an incorrect drop from a sprinkler head and was informed about the transgression at the end of her round. Her apparent birdie four thus became a bogey six and her score was inflated into a one-under-par 72.

While Gustafson shot a two-under-par 71 for a 54-hole total of 207 to leave the 37-year-old American Meg Mallon and Kathryn Marshall of Scotland trailing in her wake, Webb fell back from second place on her own into a six-way tie for fourth. "I dropped it three inches away from where I was supposed to," said 25-year-old Webb, who dropped her ball within a club's length of where it lay instead of at the nearest point of relief.

Mallon, who claimed her third women's 'major' title when she won last week's du Maurier Classic in Canada, also shot 71 to finish on 214, five under par, while 33-year-old Marshall, hoping that her recent form will earn her a recall to Europe's team for the Solheim Cup match at Loch Lomond in October, carded a level-par 73.

Gustafson, 26, is already assured of making her second appearance in the biennial contest after winning on both sides of the Atlantic earlier this season. And with a cushion of Tiger Woods proportions over the rest of the field, she can be expected today to go one better than her previous best showing in this event - a tie for second at Lytham two years ago.

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