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Hamilton atop wild, windy Honda

By wire services
Published March 14, 2004

PALM BEACH GARDENS - The wind finally arrived at the Honda Classic, and so did the wackiness.

Todd Hamilton was four shots down to one Swede early in the third round Saturday and walked off Mirasol with a four-shot lead over another Swede.

A television viewer called in an infraction that never happened.

And the strangest of all was Carl Pettersson, whose lead vanished when he five-putted from 40 feet on the par-4 16th for triple bogey.

"I hit the first one 15 feet behind, and hit the next one 4 feet behind, a couple of misses, and before you know it, it's a 7," Pettersson said. "I played pretty good. It was just one hole that ruined the round."

It was the highlight, or lowlight, of a bizarre day that the blustery conditions ushered into Mirasol.

Hamilton closed it out on a positive note by making a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole for 4-under 68, putting him at 14-under 202 as he tries to win for the first time in his rookie year.

Then again, he's no ordinary rookie.

Hamilton, 38, has spent the majority of his career in Asia until finally getting through Q-school. Now, he is one round away from his first PGA Tour victory, which comes with $900,000 and a two-year exemption.

"Just do your best," he said. "If you lose, fair enough. If you win, great.

"But it would be pretty important for me."

Fredrik Jacobson was steady on the back nine and shot 70 and was at 206.

Hamilton's 68 and the size of his lead was not in the books until he went to the television trailer to review a viewer's allegation that he aligned his ball on the green after having picked up his mark.

"I would never do that," Hamilton said.

Sure enough, replays showed that he never even touched his ball.

Davis Love III finished with 70 and joined Tom Pernice and Aaron Baddeley at 8-under 208.

LPGA TOUR: Karen Stupples got the better of self-professed idol Laura Davies with 4-under 66 that sent her into the final round of the season opener with a one-shot lead over Davies and Grace Park at the Welch's/Fry's Championship in Tucson, Ariz.

Stupples, winless in five LPGA seasons, snapped a streak of 47 consecutive bogey-free holes on No. 18, finishing the third round at 15-under 195.

She and Davies each will play in their second straight final group. Stupples was second - her best professional finish - to Annika Sorenstam in the ANZ Ladies Masters on Feb. 29, and Davies collected her 66th international title Monday in the Women's Australian Open.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Gil Morgan moved into position for his third SBC Classic title, shooting 6-under 66 to take a three-stroke lead at 11-under 133 in Santa Clarita, Calif.

Larry Nelson was second after 68, and Mike McCullough, winless since 2001, was four strokes back at 7 under after 70.

Peter Jacobsen, who shared the lead in his tour debut after an opening 67, struggled with his putter en route to 71.

That left him tied for fourth at 6 under with Craig Stadler (72), Don Pooley (71), Sam Torrance (67), Mark James (70) and Des Smyth (69).

EUROPEAN PGA: Raphael Jacquelin of France and Nobuhito Sato of Japan were tied atop the leaderboard at 11 under after three rounds at the Qatar Masters in Doha.

Jacquelin shot 65, and Sato had 67 to share the lead. Jonathan Lomas of England was a stroke back after shooting 66.

[Last modified March 14, 2004, 01:05:29]

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