Mon, 17 Mar 2003

Love, Leonard battle for Honda Classic glory

Agencies, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

Davis Love III edged one stroke ahead of fellow major winner Justin Leonard after the third round of the $5 million Honda Classic on Saturday.

Love, the 1997 U.S. PGA champion, shot a seven-under-par 65 on the Sunset course at the Country Club of Mirasol to finish 20- under on 196. Leonard, who won the 1997 British Open, fired a 64 for 197.

Chris Riley (65) was alone in third place, two shots off the pace. Notah Begay III, Billy Mayfair, Woody Austin, Jerry Kelly, Tom Byrum and Paraguay's Carlos Franco were tied for fourth on 199.

Love, 38, is trying to capture the 16th PGA Tour title of his career and his second in 2003 after winning the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

After his win at Winged Foot in 1997, where he also played the final round with Leonard, Love has had different nagging back and neck injuries that have kept him out of the winner's circle.

Love, who won 12 events in his first 11 years on tour, picked up two titles between 1998 and 2002.

Going into 2003, Love had been without a win since his victory at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 2001. But this season he has had four top 20 finishes in five starts and is back on track with his game.

In Tucson, Arizona, Canada's Lorie Kane, blown away with the rest of the field by Meg Mallon's 60 on Friday, shot a 5-under 65 to regain the lead at the Welch's-Fry's, the year's first LPGA Tour event.

Kane also led the Welch's-Fry's first round after shooting a career-low 61, but trailed Mallon by three shots going into the third. A crucial swing occurred when Mallon, who had reached 19 under by playing 41 consecutive holes without a bogey, had back- to-back bogeys on the 13th and 14th holes.

Kane, playing half a fairway ahead, took the lead Saturday when she holed a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 15 and parred out for a 54-hole total of 18-under 192.

Christina Kim shot a 62 on her 19th birthday and claimed sole possession of second at 193.

In Doha, Qatar, South Africa's James Kingston put himself in contention for his first European Tour title with a two-shot lead over Briton David Howell going into the final round after a turbulent day's play at the Qatar Masters on Saturday.

The event which was hit by a violent sand storm on Thursday's opening day, was battered by the notorious shamal desert wind on Saturday, with the result that many an accomplished golfer missed the cut after officials decided to cull the field to 54 to finish the tournament on Sunday.