Sunday, March 9, 2003

Hoch shares lead with Tway at Doral

Els tied for lead in Dubai Classic

The Associated Press

MIAMI - Scott Hoch finally found a swing that worked and a putting stroke that couldn't fail Saturday to shoot a 6-under 66 and share the lead with Bob Tway going into the final round of the Ford Championship at Doral.

Ready to give up on the tournament for the second time this week, Hoch shortened his swing to compensate for a sore left wrist and went on a tear, making birdies on seven of his final 11 holes.

He was at 14-under 202 and will play in the final group with Tway, who parred the final eight holes for a 3-under 69.

"After five holes, I told my caddie, 'It doesn't look like we're going to get it done today.' I was trying different swings and it wasn't working," Hoch said. "All of a sudden, things clicked on No. 8 and I started hitting good shot after good shot."

Hoch, 47, will need more of those in sweltering south Florida.

Today is shaping up to be a shootout at Doral, with six others within three shots of the lead.

Jim Furyk overcame two short misses with a good par save from the bunker on the 18th hole for a 69. He was one stroke out of the lead at 203 with Carlos Franco of Paraguay, who holed an 18-foot birdie putt on the last for a 68.

Right behind them was perhaps the most dangerous player in the field. Mike Weir, who is starting to make a habit of winning, surged into contention with a stunning finish - a 40-foot birdie putt on the 15th, a 10-foot par save on the 16th and two wedge shots that were flawless.

DUBAI DESERT CLASSIC: Ernie Els bogeyed the troublesome 18th hole but still finished with a 3-under 69 to grab a share of the lead entering the final round at the United Arab Emirates.

Els, seeking his third Dubai title and second in a row, birdied the 15th, 16th and 17th holes, and his par on No. 18 gave him a three-round total of 13-under 203. The South African is tied with Scotland's Alastair Forsyth and England's David Lynn. Lynn and Forsyth, who has led from the start, also shot 3-under 69. Forsyth had one bogey, on No. 4. Lynn had bogeys on the second and fifth holes, but three birdies on the back nine put him in contention.

Els, who already has four victories this season, struggled on the front nine but had a chance to take sole possession of the lead with his three successive birdies. Yet for the second straight day he got into trouble on the par-5, 547-yard 18th.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Bruce Lietzke made seven birdies before bogeying the 18th hole to fall into a three-way tie for the lead with Tom Jenkins and Eamonn Darcy after two rounds of the MasterCard Classic in Mexico City.

Lietzke finished with a 4-under 68 to tie Jenkins and Darcy at 9-under in the $2 million tournament.

American Jim Thorpe withdrew from the tournament after being mugged at gunpoint in a Mexico City restaurant late Friday night.

Golfers Rodger Davis, Bob Gilder, Walter Hall, Butch Sheehan and Bobby Walzel also were robbed.

NATIONWIDE TOUR: American Ryan Palmer won in his second Nationwide Tour start, shooting a 4-under 68 on Sunday for a three-stroke victory in the Clearwater Classic.

Palmer, who had a course-record 9-under 63 on Friday, finished with a 17-under 271 total on the Clearwater Resort course. The former Texas A&M player earned $110,520.

"It was a real struggle to get here and at the moment I just can't tell you what it means to win," said Palmer, who secured a spot on the tour with a 57th-place tie in the PGA Tour qualifying tournament in December.

"I've had to really work hard to get where I am now and to win in only my second tournament. It's too tough to say how I feel right now.

Australia's Andre Stolz closed with a 68 to finish second, American Kevin Johnson (67) was third at 12 under, and countryman David Branshaw (67) followed at 10 under.

"Andre and Kevin were playing real well today and that made it hard on me," Palmer said. "I knew there was pressure, but going into the back nine I knew I was putting well and that kept my fire going."

The top 20 money winners at the end of the Nationwide season will earn 2004 PGA Tour cards, and three-time winners receive an automatic promotion to the PGA Tour. The tour will open its North American schedule March 27-30 with the Louisiana Open.

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