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No. 388 Coles Joins Singh in the Final Pairing at the Houston Open

Associated Press
Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page E14

Vijay Singh is No. 2 in the world golf ranking. Australian Gavin Coles is No. 388.

Going into today's final round of the Houston Open in Humble, Tex., they're dead even.

Gavin Coles
Gavin Coles
Gavin Coles of Australia chips his third shot on the sixth during the third round of the Houston Open on Saturday. (David J. Phillip - AP)

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Singh, the defending champion, fought off windy conditions and a slow start yesterday, shooting a 2-under-par 70 to tie Coles (71) for the lead at 11-under 205.

"It's awesome, mate," Coles said. "I can't imagine too many guys that wouldn't want to be in my shoes tomorrow standing outside the ropes, that's for sure.

"What better could it be, playing with the No. 2 player in the world?"

Singh, a nine-time winner last year who was recently elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame, is seeking his third victory in four years in the event.

"I think he'll be more concerned with me than me with him," Singh said. "I think he's a very experienced player himself. I mean, he's not experienced on this tour much, but he's been playing around the world for a while, so I think he'll do okay."

Okay was good enough as wind gusting more than 20 mph at the Redstone Golf Club's Jacobsen/Hardy Course kept scores high.

Singh had three birdies on the back nine to match Coles, who started the day tied for the lead with Brett Quigley at 10 under.

Englishman Greg Owen faltered with bogeys on his last two holes to finish with a 70, leaving him a stroke back at 10 under. Quigley (73) and Jose Maria Olazabal (70) were 9 under, and John Daly (73) topped a three-man group at 8 under.

Singh started the day one shot off the pace and fell as much as five shots behind with bogeys at Nos. 4 and 6, both par-4 holes, then bounced back with birdies at 8 and 10. A birdie at the par-5 12th hole, where his approach landed three feet from the pin, pulled him within one of the lead.

Then at the par-5 15th, the 42-year-old Fijian made a six-foot birdie putt to pull even with Coles and Owen at 11 under. Singh finished with three pars.

The 36-year-old Coles, who played last year on the Nationwide Tour and is making his second try at the PGA Tour, had some early stumbles but refused to buckle. He started with a birdie at No. 1 and got to 12 under with another birdie at the par-3 5th hole. Back-to-back bogeys at 7 and 8 sent him back to the pack before he two-putted from 75 feet for birdie at the turn. Then he had nine straight pars for his 71.

Owen, who began the day two shots off the pace, was at 12 under and in the lead until finishing with back-to-back bogeys.

LPGA: Wendy Ward moved into contention for her second straight victory, shooting a 4-under 68 for a share of the third-round lead with Sweden's Carin Koch in the Corona Morelia Championship in Morelia, Mexico.

Ward, a 31-year-old Texan who won the Takefuji Classic last week in Las Vegas for her first victory in nearly four years, lost the outright lead with a bogey on the par-5 18th. Koch, winless since 2001, shot a 71 to match Ward at 8 under.

Natalie Gulbis was five strokes back after a 72, and Stacy Prammanasudh and Catriona Matthew were tied for fourth at 2 under after 70s.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Wayne Levi battled both Tom Purtzer and a strong wind, and held on for a one-stroke lead after two rounds of the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf in Savannah, Ga.

Levi, seeking his first victory of the season, shot a 4-under 68 for a two-round total of 9-under 135 at The Club at Savannah Harbor.

Purtzer, who led by a stroke after the first round, felt his back stiffen in the windy conditions, but carded a 71 for a 136 total. Ireland's Des Smyth (71) and Tom Jenkins (67) were tied at 137.

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