20 Jul 2008

Norman conquest on cards at British Open

7:59 am on 20 July 2008

Greg Norman stood on the verge of one of the most remarkable achievements in sport after overcoming howling, gale-force winds to grab the third-round lead at the British Open on Saturday.

The Australian, trying to rewrite the record books by becoming golf's oldest major champion at the age of 53, battled his way to a 72 and a two-over tally of 212 on a day when most of the field were blown off course by gusts of 72kmh.

Sharing second place on 214 were Norman's playing partner KJ Choi of South Korea (75) and champion Padraig Harrington (72).

One stroke further adrift at a blowy Royal Birkdale was Briton Simon Wakefield, who equalled the day's best round with a level-par 70.

Norman, who married tennis great Chris Evert last month, hardly hit a fairway all day but he kept errors to a minimum. With his wife standing by the 18th green, he drew gasps from the crowd when a tricky chip from behind a bunker narrowly missed the cup.

Earlier, the former world No 1 bogeyed three of the first six holes before getting back into gear by holing a 10-foot birdie putt at the eighth. He stalled with a double-bogey six at the 10th before he gathered further birdies at the 14th and 17th.

With trousers billowing in the sunshine, flags bending at 90-degree angles and caps flying across the links layout, birdies were rare.

Scores soared and the 83-strong field took a battering on one of the most difficult days for golf in the 137th edition of the game's oldest championship.