Mon, Jul 19, 2004 - Page 20 News List

New man on the tour takes lead


Todd Hamilton of the US plays from the 12th tee on the third day of the British Open at Royal Troon golf course in Troon, Scotland, Saturday.


Todd Hamilton, who toiled around the world for years in golf's minor leagues, swept past some of the game's biggest names Saturday to take the third round lead in the British Open.

Hamilton, who made it onto the PGA tour this year for the first time at the age of 39 and then won the Honda Classic, shot the day's lowest score -- a 67 -- to take a one shot lead over Ernie Els.

Hamilton was at 8-under 205 after making four birdies and no bogeys on a rainy day off the Scottish coast at Royal Troon.

Lurking just two shots behind were Masters champion Phil Mickelson and US Open winner Retief Goosen, while Tiger Woods was four shots off the lead.

"A lead doesn't mean a whole lot right now," Els said after making three birdies in the last five holes for a 68. "There's 18 holes to play and anything can happen."

A day after another American journeyman, Skip Kendall, held the halfway lead, Hamilton played nearly flawless golf. He grabbed the lead for good when another well-traveled journeyman, England's Barry Lane, made double bogey on the par-3 17th hole and finished three shots back.

Hamilton, though, will have a lot of players with pedigree chasing him in Sunday's final round.

Woods will be one of them, after shooting a 68 to get to 4-under-par in a round that started out much better than the final score indicated. Woods birieied four of the first seven holes, then played the final 11 holes 1-over.

"The key is to not have any mistakes," Woods said.

"I'm looking forward to it."

Hamilton, who played the Asian Tour five years and then won six times on the Japanese Tour, tried eight times to get his PGA Tour playing card before finally making it through last year's qualifying school.

He promptly went out and won the Honda Classic, making birdies on the last two holes to beat Davis Love III.

Hamilton will need to play with that kind of confidence Sunday with so many proven major championship winners within just a few shots of the lead.

Mickelson shot a 68 and hasn't made a bogey in two rounds, but got a huge break on the 15th hole when his wayward drive hit a group of spectators and bounced back toward the fairway. and he made par.

"It should have gone out of bounds. It was clearly a tremendous break," Mickelson said. "It certainly kept my round going."

Mickelson also hit it into the stands on the 18th hole, but that ball also came down in the rough and he made par.

Thomas Levet of France was at 9 under at one point on the back nine nad appeared to be on his way to a commanding lead, but 3-putted from 12 feet for double bogey on the 11th hole to fall back. Levet was a 6 under, while Kendall was at 3 under.

Colin Montgomerie was also in contention despite a number of wayward shots, but he missed a 3-footer on the 18th hole to shoot 72 and fall five shots behind.

Both Mickelson and Woods made moves early on a day when squalls dumped rain on the seaside Royal Troon course, while Els made his charge late.

Mickelson birdied three holes on the front nine to get to 6 under, two shots behind Levet, then made pars the rest of the way in.

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