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Lonard Leads Clarke by One

Associated Press
Sunday, April 17, 2005; Page E06

Peter Lonard regained the lead in the Heritage yesterday in Hilton Head Island, S.C., shooting a 5-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead over Darren Clarke, with five-time Harbour Town champion Davis Love III lurking close behind.

Lonard, the 37-year-old Australian seeking his first PGA Tour victory, had an 11-under 202 total. Clarke shot a 73 to drop to second, Rod Pampling (68) was third at 6 under, and Love (69) followed at 5 under.

Peter Lonard hits his chip shot on the second green during the third round of the MCI Heritage on Saturday. Lenoard made birdie on the hole. (MARY ANN CHASTAIN - AP)

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Lonard, who won the Australian Open and Australian PGA in consecutive weeks late last year, takes a lead into the final round for the first time in four tour seasons. He doesn't expect the new position to change his routine.

"In theory, it shouldn't be any different," Lonard said. "I'll relax, have a few beers and talk rubbish with my mates. I'll do the same things I've always done."

Clarke entered the round with his best 36-hole score ever, 12-under 130, good for a six-stroke lead. Over the first seven holes, though, Clarke's lead vanished quicker than he could finish a customary golf cigar as he made four bogeys -- double the number he had the first two rounds -- to fall into a tie with Lonard.

Clarke recovered with birdies on the ninth and 10th holes to take a two-stroke lead, but two more bogeys dropped him behind his Australian rival.

The crusher came on the 15th green when Lonard dropped in a 55-footer for birdie. Clarke sent his own 50-foot birdie try six feet past and missed the par attempt to fall two shots behind.

Lonard toyed with a 59 on Thursday before finishing with a 62, his best round ever. Then came Friday's 74 that dropped him six shots behind Clarke.

Yesterday, Lonard birdied three of his first five holes, including a 40-foot chip on the par-3 fourth, to turn the runaway into a race. His birdie on the 13th hole tied Clarke at 10 under before the long birdie putt put Lonard ahead by two. When Clarke closed the lead to a stroke with a birdie on the 16th hole, Lonard answered with a birdie of his own on the par-3 17th.

Clarke was lauded as much for his steady play his first two days here as for his fashion choices (he wore a matching fluorescent fuchsia combo yesterday). Clarke is confident he can get his swing back to try for his first PGA Tour victory since the 2003 WCG-NEC Invitational.

"If you ask most guys at a tournament, they'll have three days where they play well and one day where they play a little bit not too well," Clarke said. "Hopefully, this is my day when I played not too well."

While Clarke and Lonard battled at the top, Love played well enough to get himself in the running where a mid-60s round -- along with a bobble or two by the leader -- might earn a sixth plaid champions jacket. Love is as good a bet as anyone else to do it -- he's had 37 rounds in the 60s since first playing at Harbour Town in 1986.

LPGA: Wendy Ward kept her cool and her touch around the greens for a wire-to-wire win in the Takefuji Classic in Las Vegas, her first victory in nearly four years.

Ward closed with a 5-under 67 to hold off the charging Lorena Ochoa by two shots. Ward finished the 54-hole event at 16-under 200. Ochoa, who vaulted from a tie for 96th into a tie for fourth with a 63 the previous day, went low again, finishing with a 65.

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