Friday, 19 March 2010

Retief Goosen has climbed to within six shots of the lead at The Open Championship after a fine opening nine holes in his third round at Royal Birkdale.

The South African, who suffered three straight bogeys to close Friday's round of 75, was seemingly sinking without a trace when dropped shots at the first and fourth holes took him up to eight over par.

However, he has since battled back with birdies at the fifth, seventh and ninth to leap into a share of 15th place on five over - a full 12 spots higher than his overnight position.

His inward nine could yet prove more difficult with winds up to 50mph expected, but the leading pair of Korea's K J Choi, who is a shot ahead on one under par, and Greg Norman, are likely to bear the brunt of the weather.

Elsewhere, Lee Westwood four-putted the first hole in a round of 78, leaving him joint last on 17 over.

Ernie Els managed a 74 to finish 13 over and Paul Casey was 12 over after a 73, a total matched by Colin Montgomerie after a 74.

Former Champion Ben Curtis had threatened to defy the conditions with a front nine of 31, the lowest of the week, which included a fortunate eagle on the third.

The 31 year old American, 396th in the world at the time of his shock win in 2003, turned away from his second shot in disgust before it was blown back on target and took a friendly bounce into the hole for a two.

A birdie on the fifth was followed by a bogey on the sixth - one of three holes shortened in anticipation of the bad weather - but after another birdie on the seventh, Curtis dropped three shots in a row from the 11th to fall back to seven over.

England's Phillip Archer was the first man out at 7:30am, the 36 year old playing on his own as the odd man out of the 83 to make the cut and carding a 78.

"It was the toughest day so far. Staying steady over the ball was the hardest bit," he said. "The ball is oscillating as you address it and you're scared to put the putter down in case the ball moves."

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