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Lehman takes four-shot lead

With his eye on the Ryder Cup team and his first PGA Tour victory since 1996, Tom Lehman shot a third-round 64 Saturday to take a four-shot lead in the rain-soaked Buick Open.

Slopping along in drenched khakis and doffing his dripping cap on the putting green to keep the water from dripping onto his ball, Lehman lapped the field. He made nine birdies and a bogey while other leaders struggled in deteriorating conditions.

Lehman was alone at 16-under par, four shots ahead of Ernie Els. Nine players were bunched at 11 under, including second-round leader Rocco Mediate, who shot 72.

Lehman capped his round with birdie putts of 40 and 30 feet on the last two holes, the birdie on 17 coming after grounds crews used roller squeegees to press water off the green.

"The greens are great. You get it on line and it's going to go in the hole," Lehman said. "The rain really didn't seem to affect me."

Winning would vault him into the top 10 in the competition for a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. He ranks 14th. Captain Ben Crenshaw will pick two players in addition to the 10 who will make the team based on a performance point system. The matches against Europe are set for next month at the Country Club in Brookline and this week's PGA Championship is the last tournament that will count in Ryder Cup standings.

"I'd love to win and I'm in the driver's seat," Lehman said.

Els struggled to 1-under 71.

"To be honest with you, I was hoping for thunder," Els said. That would have stopped play and allowed the final groups to get out of the rain. "Our back nine was horrendous. It really started pouring."

DALY OUT: The troubles continue for John Daly. He has withdrawn from the PGA Championship at Medinah, Ill. No official reason was given. The 1991 PGA and 1995 British Open champion played his last tournament at the U.S. Open in June.

AREAWEB.COM CHALLENGE: There's no danger of Sherri Steinhauer feeling overconfident with a two-stroke lead over Lorie Kane heading into today's final round of LPGA play at Sutton, Mass.

That was the same situation she was in three weeks ago at the Big Apple Classic, and that was not settled until Steinhauer beat Kane in a five-hole playoff. This time, there's a third person in the mix _ Hall of Famer Beth Daniel.

"Beth is a great player," said Steinhauer, who was in high school when Daniel was named rookie of the year in 1979. "I definitely was in awe of Beth Daniel."

Steinhauer birdied the final two holes for 3-under-par 69 and was 11 under on the par-72, 6,334-yard Pleasant Valley Country Club course. Kane shot 1-under 71 to finish at 9 under. Daniel followed bogey on No. 10 with eagle on 11, then birdied 18 to finish at 69 and 8 under. Mardi Lunn was tied with Daniel after shooting 71.

SENIOR LONG ISLAND CLASSIC: Bruce Fleisher had three birdies _ one-third his opening-round total _ and shot 3-under-par 69 that extended his lead over Mark Hayes to three shots after two rounds in Jericho, N.Y.

Fleisher, a four-time winner in his rookie season on the Senior PGA Tour, was 11-under 133 after two trips around the 6,842-yard Meadow Brook Club course.

Hayes, who turned 50 on July 12, had 71. David Lundstrom, who had the low round of 7-under 65, was in a four-way tie at 138 with Buzz Thomas, who had 66, Tom Shaw (67) and Tom Wargo (69).

Fleisher almost did not have a chance to extend his one-stroke lead as he misread his starting time and arrived at the course just eight minutes before the final group was to tee off.

"I was lucky not to miss my time. I thought it was 1:40 instead of 11:40. I never saw my caddie nervous before but he was when I showed up," said Fleisher, who had gone to a nearby club to work on his game. "I didn't dwell on it because I had hit balls at Piping Rock but it did bother my putting."

A bee stung Hayes' left hand twice on the first green.

"It got me on the thumb and middle finger," he said. "I called for the doctor and he put ice on it and the swelling was gone after three or four holes."

U.S. GIRLS JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP: Bradenton's Aree Wongluekiet beat Nancy Abiecunas of Fort Collins, Colo., 2-up in the final of the match-play tournament in Owings Mill, Md. Wongluekiet, 13, is the youngest champion. Kay Cornelius was 14 when she won in 1981 in Salem, Ore. "This is the highlight of my summer," said Wongluekiet, who came to the United States from Thailand in 1997 and has won five junior titles this year. "It's very special." Wongluekiet, an eighth-grader, played her final 11 holes 4 under.

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