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  Saturday, 20 July, 2002, 18:46 GMT 19:46 UK
Els takes control
Ernie Els of South Africa at the third tee
Els' consistency has given him the outright lead
South African Ernie Els played controlled golf to take the lead at The Open after three rounds.


The world number three shot a round of 72 to take a two shot lead in horrendous conditions, shots constantly blighted by heavy rain and wind.

Significantly, Els' performance means that for the first time at the tournament, only one man leads and by more than a shot.

Els, who started the week by questioning his ability to stand up to Tiger Woods, will be buoyed by the fact that the world's top player is seemingly out of contention.

Woods carded an unthinkable 81 to finish the day at six over par, 11 shots behind Els.


Although the magnitude of Woods' troubles will forever be remembered, Colin Montgomerie suffered as badly as anyone on an Open course.

The Scot carded an 84, to go from four under to eight over.

Of the other contenders, Denmark's Soren Hansen closed the day at three under par and will be paired with Els.

In the pack just behind Hansen are seven players on two under, including Sergio Garcia, Justin Leonard, Thomas Bjorn and Des Smyth.

And improving Englishman Justin Rose carded an inspired three under 68 to give himself a chance at two under par.

Rose, who made his name at the Open back in 1998, took advantage of the favourable early conditions to move into an early lead.


I reckon I've fired five or six under par today considering the conditions
Sergio Garcia

It was a treacherous afternoon for Nick Price, who shot a four over 75 after his previous two rounds had put him in prime position to challenge.

Padraig Harrington also suffered, with a 76 reducing his tournament score to one under.

But on a day when every player had to overcome weather which would not have been out of place at Christmas, it was a case of damage limitation.

"That was pretty good stuff. I reckon I've fired five or six under par today considering the conditions," said Garcia.

Among the early finishers, David Duval completed a round of 70 while Greg Norman managed a level par 71.

Steve Elkington and Peter Lonard were the other form men on the course, both carding rounds of 68.

Lonard started in sensational fashion, moving five under after just five holes before some wayward drives cancelled out some of his early hard work.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Iain Carter
"Els took advantage of improving conditions"
Open leader Ernie Els
"The conditions were the toughest I've seen"
Soren Hansen
"It was tough"
BBC Sport Online's Open Golf Championship news section

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