Boo Weekley and Heath Slocum of the US held their lead at the World Cup of Golf yesterday, showing that the US does not need the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to contend for the title.
The lightly regarded US duo shot a six-under, giving them a one-stroke lead over France (62) and Scotland (66) going into today's final round at the Mission Hills Golf Club in southern China.
They are on 20-under 196 and have led by one stroke after all three rounds.
Scores dipped on a warm, sun-drenched day with teams playing the easier fourballs (better-ball) format. Today will be tougher, playing foursomes (alternate-shot) in what is still a stroke-play event.
South Africa (66) and England (67) were two strokes off the lead. Argentina (64), the Netherlands (65) and Germany (66) were three behind.
Weekley and Slocum said they struggled all day with firm greens, tough pin placements and a swirling wind. In addition, neither made many putts. The exception was Weekley's eagle-three on the third, where he hit a four-iron to 15 feet and then dropped the uphill putt.
"It was just a tough day overall, it was a grind out there," Weekley said. "It wasn't like the first day when we hit it in there close and made some putts."
"We survived with both of us not playing our best golf. So we have to feel a little fortunate," Slocum said.
After jousting briefly with France for the lead, the US moved to 20-under for the tournament with Slocum's birdie on the 13th, his only one of the round. Weekley had three to go with the eagle.
Scotland went to 19-under when Colin Montgomerie dropped a 12-foot birdie on the 18th. Montgomerie and Marc Warren were the runners-up last year, losing in a playoff against Germany's Bernhard Langer and Marcel Siem. They did not return to defend.
The French pair of Raphael Jacquelin and Gregory Havret moved into contention with a 62 after starting the day five strokes behind the Americans. Havret had an eagle on the ninth, which helped to propel them up the leaderboard.
The World Cup was prestigious years ago with winners like Nicklaus, Hogan, Snead and Palmer, but lost much of its status recently without big-name winners. Woods won back-to-back in 1999 and 2000, and Retief Goosen and Ernie Els of South Africa won in 2001.
■ AUSTRALIAN MASTERS
Sweden's Daniel Chopra carded one of the best rounds of his career to take a one-stroke lead yesterday into the final 18 holes of the Australian Masters at Huntingdale.
Chopra posted a seven-under 65 to finish the third round 12-under 204.
He leads Australians Kurt Barnes and Aaron Baddeley on 11-under 205 with another Australian Rod Pampling a further two shots away at nine-under 207.
Overnight leader Robert Allenby lost ground with a one-over 73 in the third round to be eight-under 208 and four shots behind Chopra with Englishman Richard Finch and Australian Stuart Appleby.
■ CASIO OPEN
Australia's Chris Campbell sank a birdie on the 18th hole for the day's best score of eight-under 64 to take a one-stroke lead after the third round of the Casio Open yesterday.
Starting the day seven strokes off the pace in a tied 15th place, Campbell carded a bogey-free eight birdies for a three-round total of nine-under 207 on the Kochi Kuroshio Country Club course.
Overnight leader I.J. Chang hit three birdies against three bogeys to share second place on 208 with Japan's top-money earner Toru Taniguchi, who had four birdies against three bogeys.