Sunday, July 20, 2003

Bjorn leads Tiger and all-star cast

Dozen within 4 strokes of British Open lead

The Associated Press

SANDWICH, England - The shot was pure magic, and so was the moment.

Hoping to make par, Tiger Woods measured his swing to avoid the sod-brick walls of the pot bunker and then holed out for eagle, his first lead all week at the British Open.

Tournament over, right?

Not on this golf course. Not at this major championship.

By the end of another wild day on these most unpredictable links, Thomas Bjorn emerged with a one-stroke lead Saturday that made him the instant underdog. "There's a couple of guys out there that know how to win majors," Bjorn said. "I don't."

Those guys include Davis Love III, a former PGA champion who will go off in the final group today with Bjorn.

Playing ahead of them will be Woods and two-time major winner Vijay Singh, among five players in the group two shots behind.

Adding to the all-star cast of contenders are Kenny Perry, with three victories in his last four starts, and Sergio Garcia, no stranger to Sunday pressure in a major.

Bjorn played it safe and finished with 11 straight pars for a 2-under 69, giving him his first lead in a major. At 212, he was the only man under par at Royal St. George's.

"There's some big names up there," Bjorn said. "I've got to play solid golf to beat them."

Mark Roe of England won't get that chance. He shot a 67 that put him in the thick of the championship - only to discover later he was disqualified for putting Jesper Parnevik's score (81) on his card.

The craziness won't end until someone is holding the silver claret jug:

• Bjorn doesn't have a lot of major championship experience, but he went toe-to-toe with Woods over 72 holes and beat him three years ago at the Dubai Desert Classic.

• Love, whose three victories this year include a closing 64 in the wind at The Players Championship, overcame a bad start with an eagle and four pars down the stretch for a 72.

• Woods is trying to join Jack Nicklaus with a second career Grand Slam. Despite four bogeys over the final eight holes, he shot 69 and got everyone's attention.

"I expect - like everyone else - that Tiger is going to go out and play his best game tomorrow and win this tournament," Bjorn said.

• Garcia chopped out of the rough twice on the 17th hole and was on the verge of posting a big number until holing a 60-yard wedge for "the best par of my life" and a 70.

• Singh turned in the streakiest round of the day with only two pars over his final 12 holes. An eagle-birdie-birdie stretch was followed by four straight bogeys, and the big Fijian showed enough heart to birdie three of the final four for a 69.

• Perry might be the most dangerous of all. Golf's hottest player, even a rare trip to the British Open - his first since 1991 - didn't stop him. He shot a 70.

There were a dozen players within four shots of the lead, with defending champ Ernie Els (72) still hopeful from six behind.

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