Price prepares for Open fitness battle

Nick Price, the Open champion, is battling to shake off a hip injury less than three weeks before he is due to defend his title.

"It's pretty darn sore," said Price after the second round of the St Jude Classic in Memphis, Tennessee. It may prove a blessing in disguise that he had a bogey on the final hole to miss the cut by one stroke after successive rounds of 70 for a two-under 140 total at the Southwind course.

Price was heading home to rest for a couple of days in the hope his right hip would recover in time for him to defend his Western Open title in Chicago starting on Thursday.

He was reluctant to declare himself a doubtful starter for the event, but does not want to risk aggravating the injury with the Open looming.

The Zimbabwean said he had incurred the injury, which he described as a "tendon thing", at the US Open two weeks ago. "It's got worse this week. It's not too good," he said.

Almost nothing will stop Price from playing in the Open, which starts at St Andrews on 20 July. However, unless he makes a quick recovery from the injury, it is difficult to imagine him having much chance of becoming the first player to win successive championships since Tom Watson in 1982- 83.

Jim Gallagher bogeyed the final hole in semi-darkness to cling to a tenuous one-stroke lead after the third round in Memphis yesterday. Gallagher, one of the quickest players on the PGA Tour, was frustrated by the slow pace of play, which turned into a sprint only over the final few holes, when the late starters realised they were in danger of failing to finish before dark.

"I wanted to finish because I didn't want to wake up early," said Gallagher, who shot a three-under-par 68. He was at 18-under on a 195 aggregate with one round remaining, a single stroke ahead of fellow American Gene Sauers, who stormed into contention with a 63, the lowest score of the afternoon.

Bob Tway was four strokes behind after a 70 that included a triple bogey, while Ken Green and John Huston trailed by five shots.

Scores, Sporting Digest, page 25

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