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Issue Date:- 18 July 2008

3rd Day of the Championship -Saturday, 19 July 2008
Report by Sally Devine & photos by Patrick Trollope

THE Wind was worse then ever in the morning, but the rain held off for the most part with only light drizzle at very intermittent times.  The afternoon was a stark contrast, turning into a bright sunny day, but the wind was getting stronger and stronger.  At one point, the organisers thought about postponing play for a bit, to let the wind drop.

First off of the day was Philip Archer (England), starting at 7:30am GMT.  At the 6th hole, 11th and 16th, the tees had been altered over night,making the golf more interesting for the spectators and easier for the players.  "In view of the forecasted strong wind levels for Saturday's 3rd round, we decided to move the tees forward at these holes.  This amendment makes 6th at 486 yards, 11th at 358 yards and 16th to 371 yards" said W.M.B.  Brown, Chairman, Champion Committee.

Hole 11 is proving brutal for most of the competitors who have to drive straight into the eye of the gales blowing in off the Irish Sea.  Six is also a tricky one for everybody; it too is elevated, situated on the edge of the course by the Coast Road and accompanying dunes.  12 also proved to be an entertaining hole in the morning, with Henrik Stenson saying:- "It was a great grinding performance.  I made some Houdini saves out there on 11 and 12.  The rest of the time I had to hang in there.  I only had one bad hole really, was on 16, when I doubled after being in the middle of the fairway.  Very unhappy with that one, but the rest was really good.  Hard to put a number on the performance.  Like fighting golf all over.  So different from playing in calm conditions."

After a very interesting and nail biting day for Colin Montgomerie yesterday, he was far happier on the course today.  "I was three-over after seven.  I made one birdie out of the heavy rough at 16.  But it was very average, very average."

Chris Wood, the lanky leading amateur, teed of at 12:35pm GMT hoping to emulate Justin Rose's heroics of 10 years ago, at Royal Birkdale.  The blustery weather still persisted at lunchtime but was accompanied by blue skies and sunshine.  The crowds continued to arrive in their thousands through the gates, but you would not have noticed that attendance was slightly down on yesterday's, coming in at 40,000.  Attendance was also down on 1998 when the event had 41,000.  Justin Rose struggled at the first five holes, dropping a total of 5 shots, to leave his aspirations hanging in the balance.  British interest is still largely in Padraig Harrington along with Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell.

Davis Love 111 on +9 told the media after his game:- "It's nice to get a good score today.  A red number today would've been unbelievable and it would have been nice, but I have to be happy with this.  I'll just watch the boys now on TV."

Top of the leader board was a four-way fight for most of the afternoon between Harrington, Norman, Choi and Villegas.

Bootle born Nick Dougherty finished at the 18th with a superb long putt and looked up to the sky to thank his mother who died recently.

David Duvall, who was amongst the leading players last night, had a disastrous start to Day 4, taking 7 shots to make the hole on the first tee alone.  This resulted in him plummeting down the scoreboard.

Chris Wood eventually finished the third day three over par in his first Open and enjoying the experience as the leading amateur.  He takes it all in his lengthy stride and says his family and he himself are easy going and able cope with his new found fame.  Sergio Garcia on the other hand rues the weather and having to hit a five iron 130 yards when it is usually 200 yards does not help matters.

Teeing off last was Greg Norman and KJ Choi 2:40pm, playing the 42nd game of the day.  By mid afternoon only KJ Choi was under par, the rest of the field failing even to make that.  E.g.  Norman, remaining one over, with current champion Harrington was hot on his heels on two over.  The winds remain strong, but are expected to abate slightly into the late evening.  Thankfully the rain has stayed away.  Englishman, Paul Casey, on finishing his round, declared himself pleased with his finish of 73 after hitting out of bounds on the first shot and then losing his ball.  The main complaint was that the balls were moving on the green, making things very difficult.  The R and A are monitoring conditions closely and amending certain holes as they see fit.

As for non-golf related activities on site; today business remained brisk throughout the day, with the concession tents inside amassing large crowds.  On the 18th Green through out the day, for the first time was Liverpool Artist, Peter Chapple, who has been given permission by the R&A to paint an 18th hole scene, for sale when finished.  The Open Arms Pub inside the grounds proved to be a massive draw for many, as punters followed the action on the large screen outside.  The crowds remain bullish despite the weather and some are picnicking at the side of the greens, enjoying the great golf on display. 

Tomorrow's final day at Royal Birkdale is perfectly poised to create a grandstand finish.  The Great White shark, Greg Norman is currently top of the pile at 2 shots over, the 53 year old is enjoying a new lease of life chasing his third Claret Jug of his career.  Both Padraig Harrington and Choi the South Korean are 4 over with 34 years old Englishman Simon Wakefield close behind them at 5 over par.

A fine performance by leading amateur Chris Wood from Bristol sees him 6 shots behind the leader.  The 6 foot 5 former footballer has the Silver medal primarily in his sights for the amateur prize and says anything else would be a bonus.

It has been 10 years since the tournament has been at this course in Merseyside and the next local chance will not be until 2012, at Royal Lytham St Annes, unless you come tomorrow, Sunday!

Gates open on Sunday at 7am with play starting at 7.  30.  With the eyes of the world on Royal Birkdale, let's hope the finale is worthy of this great occasion.

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