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Saturday, 25 May 2002
England's Lee James continues to lead the Izki Challenge de Espana in northern Spain but now shares top spot with Hennie Otto from South Africa and another Englishman, Mark Sanders. They are together on 11 under par 208, a shot clear of the field.

James, who has been ahead from the start on Thursday, was hoping to go clear today. But despite getting to 12 under with seven to play he couldn't prise any more shots from the hilly Izki course and had to settle for 71.

"I played poorly today," he said. "I drove the ball badly and didn't hit the fairways. I also found the greens inconsistent. But even though it was a bad day I'm still tied for the lead."

It was Otto who set the target with a superb best-of-the-day 67, coming home in 31 with six birdies in the final seven holes from his overall haul of eight.

"I made more putts today because I took a bit more time trying to read the nap properly," he said. "The closing stretch was something else. When I got to seven under and chipped-in at the 15th, I knew there were two par fives to come and I had a chance of tying the lead."

At the short 17th he fired a five iron to ten feet, then he birdied the long dog-leg 18th with a five wood, eight iron and sand wedge to 15 feet. Otto is in good form, having won the Pietersburg Classic on the Sunshine
Tour two weeks ago, while his only previous Challenge Tour victory was in Spain three years ago.

Sanders, who celebrated his 28th birthday on Thursday, has missed the cut in all three of his previous Challenge Tour outings this year, but if he can repeat his new-found form in the final round he could be popping the
champagne all the way back to his home in Bristol.

"I've been putting myself under so much pressure this year so I decided this week to be much more relaxed," he said. "I'm just going out and hitting it but I'm also putting well which helps."

Sanders had an eagle and seven birdies in his 68, getting to 12 under at one stage. He would have enjoyed a clear lead but for dropping three shots in two holes midway through his back nine.

Such is the crowded nature of the leaderboard that three more players are a shot back on 10 under, Swedes Bjorn Pettersson and Raimo Sjoberg and Iain Pyman from England. Both Pettersson and Sjoberg had six birdies in their 69s to move to 10 under, while Pyman, three times a Challenge Tour winner, kept a bogey off his card as he ran in five birdies in a 68.

Two more Swedes, Oskar Bergman and Fredrik Widmark are on nine under par 210, after moving in different directions. Bergman also got round without dropping a shot, firing six birdies in his 67, but Widmark, joint leader overnight with James, slipped back with 73 containing four bogeys. "It was just a poor day," he said.

Another player who suffered was Frenchman Bertrand Cornut, who started the day two shots back but signed for 81 and 220 to plunge to the back of the field.

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