Westwood closing in on leaders

Lee Westwood put up a spirited defence of his Belgacom Open title as John Daly crashed out in trademark style at Royal Zoute. Westwood, the world No 5 was one shot off the lead held jointly by Swedish duo Robert Karlsson and Per-Ulrik Johansson and South African Retief Goosen when fading light halted play in the third round.

Lee Westwood put up a spirited defence of his Belgacom Open title as John Daly crashed out in trademark style at Royal Zoute. Westwood, the world No 5 was one shot off the lead held jointly by Swedish duo Robert Karlsson and Per-Ulrik Johansson and South African Retief Goosen when fading light halted play in the third round.

By then Daly, one of the £535,000 event's star attractions, had long since departed, barely pausing for breath after a second-round 79 saw him miss the cut by five shots.

"I think the bottom line is, and you can quote me on it, I suck," the 33-year-old American said as he brushed past waiting reporters.The former Open champion was being paid around £80,000 to appear in Knokke and attracted a sizeable gallery as he completed his second round this morning.

But he gave the sponsors very poor value for their money after his eight-over-par effort which included a triple-bogey seven on the last.Earlier in the week Daly had spoken of his new-found enthusiasm for the game after deciding to drink and gamble "a little" instead of trying to fight the "inner demons" that have plagued him for almost a decade.The double Major winner also felt his game was coming back into shape after spending eight weeks practising back at his home course in Arkansas.

But after a promising level-par first round of 71 Daly reverted to type and played the 18th like a man with a plane to catch. It is not the first time the 1991 USPGA champion, who lost a multi-million contract with manufacturers Callaway after refusing their help to beat his addictions, has disappointed his supporters on his rare appearances in Europe.

At the 1996 Dutch Open at Hilversum, where he was also paid appearance money, he shot a second-round 89 to also miss the cut. Earlier this season he carded a third-round 81 at the Irish Open on his way to finishing second last.

And things have not been much better this year in America. He withdrew after a first-round 80 in the Colonial tournament, had a six-putt 10 in an 82 at the Memorial event and took 11 on the eighth on route to an 83 in the US Open at Medinah.

The good news for the sponsors was that the leaderboard was packed with quality and nine players were within a shot of the lead held by Karlsson, Johansson and Goosen at eight under par.

The latter pair both had five holes to complete when play was suspended with Karlsson just one hole ahead, while Westwood managed to complete 16 holes. The 26-year-old from Worksop complained of feeling ring-rusty following his first-round 73 after just three competitive rounds since the Ryder Cup.

But he showed few signs of that today, playing the last 11 holes of his second round in four under par in the morning on his way to a superb 66.And four more birdies in the afternoon on the testing links kept him well in the hunt for the £89,000 first prize.

"I'm finding a bit of form," said Westwood after his second round. "I hit a lot of good shots out there and that was probably the worst I could have shot.

"I'm playing better than I did the first day, that's for sure, and if you shoot 66 round here you make up some ground because it's such a good test of golf."

Five players were a shot behind Westwood on six under including Scotland's Dean Robertson, England's Jamie Spence and Wales' Mark Mouland who, at 128th in the Order of Merit, was making a brilliant last-ditch attempt to save his tour card.

Belgacom Open Scores after the partially completed third round with 39 players still to finish round on the the 6,907-yard, par-71 Royal Zoute course:

Raphael Jacquelin, France 72-69-67ÿ208 Jean-Francois Remesy, France 72-68-68ÿ208 Stephen Gallacher, Scotland 72-70-66ÿ208 Miguel Angel Martin, Spain 72-70-66ÿ208 Paul McGinley, Ireland 71-70-68ÿ209 John Bickerton, England 69-71-69ÿ209 Paul Broadhurst, England 73-69-68ÿ210 Jean Van De Velde, France 72-69-69ÿ210 Thomas Bjorn, Denmark 73-68-69ÿ210 Mats Lanner, Sweden 72-68-70ÿ210 Paul Lawrie, Scotland 73-69-68ÿ210 Dennis Edlund, Sweden 71-70-71ÿ211 Roger Winchester, England 75-66-71ÿ211 Alex Cejka, Germany 67-73-71ÿ211 Darren Clarke, Northern Ireland 73-67-72ÿ211 Jose Coceres, Argentina 71-71-70ÿ211 Tom Gillis, United States 71-72-69ÿ211 Seve Ballesteros, Spain 69-74-69ÿ211. Russell Claydon, England 71 -71 -71ÿ213 Andrew Oldcorn, Scotland 73 -69 -71ÿ213 Bernhard Langer, Germany 72 -70 -71ÿ213 Paul Eales, England 73 -69 -71ÿ213 Gary Evans, England 73 -70 -70ÿ213 Francisco Cea, Spain 69 -73 -72ÿ214 Van Phillips, England 70 -72 -72ÿ214 Barry Lane, England 72 -68 -75ÿ215 Greg Owen, England 74 -67 -74ÿ215 Jonathan Lomas, England 69 -72 -75ÿ216 David Howell, England 68 -74 -75ÿ217 Olle Karlsson, Sweden 72 -70 -75ÿ217 Michael Campbell, New Zealand 72 -70 -75ÿ217

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