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Page last updated at 19:49 GMT, Saturday, 19 July 2008 20:49 UK

Norman leads by two at Birkdale

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Watch the action from day three at Royal Birkdale

By Rob Hodgetts
BBC Sport at Royal Birkdale

Greg Norman will take a two-shot lead over defending champion Padraig Harrington and KJ Choi into the final round of the Open at Birkdale.

The 53-year-old two-time former champion carded 72 to end two over on a day of winds gusting over 40mph which almost forced a halt to play.

Harrington shot 72, while overnight leader Choi took 75.

England's Simon Wakefield is three behind in fourth, with countryman Ross Fisher in a group five adrift.

Australia's Norman, who also won the Open at Turnberry in 1986 and Royal St George's in 1993, is attempting to become the oldest winner ever (currently Old Tom Morris, who was aged 46 years and 99 days when he won at Prestwick in 1867).

Norman, who only plays occasional tournaments these days and last competed in the Open in 2005, won his last tour event in 1997.

"I'll put this down in the top three hardest rounds of golf I have played," he said. "I have played in tougher weather but this being the third round on Royal Birkdale golf course, it was brutal.

606: DEBATE

"I have a chance but there is a lot of golf to be played. Padraig has played well for the last three rounds and I've been very impressed with the golf KJ Choi has played.

"Physically and mentally I feel very good. I'm going to keep the same routine and the same mindset. You have got to stay in the present. You really don't pay attention to anyone else."

Norman will be paired with Harrington in the final group, and the Irishman admitted the situation would be a lot different to the final day at Carnoustie last year when he beat Sergio Garcia in a play-off.

Norman enjoying 'phenomenal' Open

"Last year I was going into the last round under no particular stress," he said. "I'd love to have the same attitude but obviously it's going to be a tighter day.

"We'll go out there and battle away and try to keep focus and stay patient and do all the cliché things that you're meant to do and I'll see if I've got the experience to do it."

South Korea's Choi, the world number 11, will play with the 34-year-old Wakefield, a European Tour stalwart from Newcastle-under-Lyme.

I might not sleep tonight

Simon Wakefield after his round put him three off the lead

Wakefield moved into contention with a level-par 70 and admitted he was in "very unfamiliar territory".

"I might not sleep tonight," he said. But I believe the weather is going to be a bit friendlier on Sunday so the crowd will be magnificent and I'm sure they'll carry me around."

Sunday's forecast is for lighter winds, though still blowing at about 25mph, with sunny spells. The first pair are set to go out at 0710 BST.

The wind on Saturday peaked in the afternoon and caused some balls to show signs of moving on the greens. American Anthony Kim struggled to mark his, causing a delay of about 40 minutes on the 10th, and prompted Open organisers to consider suspending play.

"It's a judgement call mainly based on the greens," said R&A director of rules David Hill.

"We had a couple of players on different greens, who were in vulnerable positions by chance at the same time so, that created a concern. If they became consistent problems we would have to suspend play."

The difficult conditions meant no one broke par and those that carded rounds in the low to mid 70s climbed the leaderboard as the day wore on.

Fisher signed for a 71, while 2003 champion Ben Curtis (70), rising star Anthony Kim (71) and Sweden's Alexander Noren (75) also ended the day in a tie for fifth on seven over.

"I'm over the moon," said Fisher. "It was ridiculously tough out there and I'm surprised we kept going really. I'm in good form, good spirits, confidence is high and the crowd out there are absolutely crazy. I'll just go out and shoot as low as I can and see what happens."

English trio Graeme Storm (72), Ian Poulter (75) and 20-year-old amateur Chris Wood (73), Swede Henrik Stenson (70), American Rocco Mediate (76) and Australian Robert Allenby (76) will resume on eight over.

Garcia is one shot further back after a 74, while Americans Davis Love, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk, and South Africa's Retief Goosen are also nine under.

Another shot adrift and still with an outside chance are a group which includes England's Simon Khan, former champions Tom Lehman, Justin Leonard and Todd Hamilton and Colombian Camilo Villegas, who could only add a 79 to his third-round 65.

England's Paul Casey, Scot Colin Montgomerie and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell ended 12 over, while Ernie Els (74) and Phil Mickelson (76) finished the day on 13 over par.

Former champion David Duval, who climbed into contention with a 69 on Friday, struggled to keep his resurgence going after years in the wilderness and plummeted to 15 over after an 83.

England's Lee Westwood took 78 for 17 over, while countryman Justin Rose amassed an 82 for 18 over.




see also
The Open leaderboard
17 Jul 08 |  Live scores
Open day three photos
19 Jul 08 |  Golf


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