Furyk stays dry on wet course

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Stung by a playoff loss at Quail Hollow a year ago and frustrated by two close calls this year, Jim Furyk gave himself another shot at winning Saturday by taking advantage of a rain-softened course for a 4-under 68 and a one-shot lead in the Wachovia Championship.

Furyk, the only player to shoot in the 60s each day this week, got the separation he needed with an approach that landed softly and rolled within 2 feet on the 16th hole, then finished with solid pars to reach 11-under 205.

Retief Goosen made seven birdies on the back nine and was thrilled to escape with a bogey on the 18th hole after driving into the creek that meanders down the left side of the fairway. That gave him a 65 and left him one shot behind, along with fellow South African Trevor Immelman, who birdied the 18th for a 66.

Bo Van Pelt had a three-shot lead going into the third round, but he opened with a bogey and followed with eight straight pars, eventually settling for a 73 that allowed several players into the mix.

The final group sure supports the notion that Quail Hollow is good enough to host a U.S. Open on short notice. Furyk (2003) and Goosen (2001, 2004) have won three of the last five U.S. Open titles.

Furyk’s memory is centered on this tournament.

A year ago, he battled down the back nine to close with a 66 and get into a three-man playoff. After Sergio Garcia was quickly eliminated, Furyk twice had good birdie chances to win, then hit into the creek on the 18th as Vijay Singh won with a par.

Furyk’s last tournament was at Hilton Head, where he lost a two-shot lead on the back nine to Aaron Baddeley.

Stanford pads lead to four strokes with 6-under 66

FRANKLIN, Tenn. – It’s been so long since Angela Stanford won on the LPGA Tour that she’s nearly forgotten how she did it.

“People say when you’ve won it seems like it should be easier when you’re in that position,” Stanford said. “But it’s been three years since I won. I’m a big believer in you have to learn how to win. I feel like I might be learning all over again almost.”

Stanford, a wire-to-wire winner in the 2003 ShopRite LPGA Classic for her lone tour title, had her putter working Saturday, shooting a 6-under 66 to build a four-shot lead after three rounds of the Franklin American Mortgage Championship.

A stroke ahead entering play Saturday on the Vanderbilt Legends Club’s Ironhorse Course, Stanford had 27 putts in a seven-birdie, one-bogey round that featured five straight birdies to put her at 18-under 198.

Cristie Kerr (66) and Sophie Gustafson (68) were tied at 202. Pat Hurst (66), who won on this course in 2000, was tied at 203 with Patricia Meunier-Lebouc (70) and Ji Yeon Lee (67). Lorena Ochoa (67) and Karrie Webb (70) were at 205.

“She’s known to play well from start to end,” Hurst said of Stanford.

Kerr, a six-time winner who has five top 10s and tied for second at Orlando two weeks ago, fixed her stance after working with her coach.

She said being a couple shots back wasn’t bad.

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McNulty surges ahead in Regions Charity

HOOVER, Ala. – Mark McNulty said he was “delighted” by his second-round lead at the Regions Charity Classic, but it was a little hard to tell.

Despite a one-stroke lead Saturday, he was stewing a bit over a shot into the water on No. 17 that led to a bogey and shrunk his advantage over Dick Mast and Brad Bryant.

“I’m still a little angry at myself for finishing as I did, but that’s golf,” McNulty said.

He made up for it on the par-4 final hole when he drained a 7-foot putt to preserve par – and his lead – to complete his second straight 67 round and move to 10-under 134.

That last putt could prove important with thunderstorms forecast for today’s final round and the potential for a rainout at Ross Bridge, part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.

“I was happy to make a 4 and get back the lead,” McNulty said. “Who knows what tomorrow brings?”

McNulty hasn’t finished higher than 10th in eight events this season, but is hardly the biggest underdog still fighting for first place.

That distinction belongs to Mast, who had a 66 and is trying to become the first Monday qualifier to win since Pete Oakley in the 2004 Senior British Open. He would earn a coveted exemption with a victory, and was embracing that pressure.

For Wie, after the cut comes the rain

INCHEON, South Korea – Michelle Wie’s first chance to play a post-cut round in a men’s tournament got washed out Saturday.

Heavy rain and strong winds forced the cancellation of the third round of the SK Telecom Open, where the 16-year-old American is six strokes off the lead after making the cut in a men’s tournament for the first time Friday. The Asian Tour event will be shortened from 72 holes to 54.

“I’ll try to play another good solid round. I will try my hardest like I’ve been doing,” Wie said Saturday. “If I play well, that’s great. If I don’t win, that’s OK. See what happens.”

Wie was at the tee when the rain hit. After a delay of almost three hours, the course was declared unplayable.

The SK Telecom Open is the eighth men’s professional event for Wie.

She has played in four PGA Tour events and has competed on the Japan, Nationwide and Canadian tours, missing the 36-hole cut in all seven tournaments. No woman has made the cut on the PGA Tour since Babe Zaharias at the 1945 Tucson Open.

Molinari, Barham share third-round lead

MILAN, Italy – Francesco Molinari and Benn Barham each shot 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead at 16 under after the third round of the Italian Open.

Barham of England had six birdies and a bogey, while Italy’s Molinari made five birdies at the Castello di Tolcinasco course.

Molinari, whose brother Edoardo won the U.S. Amateur title last year, is bidding to become the first home winner of the Italian Open since 1980.

England’s Phillip Archer – who had an eagle, six birdies and a double bogey – is a shot back in third.

Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium, who had the best round of the day with an 8-under 64, is another stroke back at 18-under 202, along with Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen and France’s Benoit Teilleria.

Second-round leader David Drysdale of Scotland trailed by four shots after a 1-over 73.

AP-ES-05-06-06 1425EDT

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