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OCHOA HOLDS TIGHT TO LEAD IN GUSTING WIND

After 54 holes, the British Open is led by a young Spanish-speaking golfer who is considered the best player not to have won a major. Sergio Garcia had his chance to polish his record last month at Carnoustie and failed. Now it is Lorena Ochoa's turn.

Ochoa, 25, from Mexico, stood in place Saturday at the Old Course, which was no easy feat considering the wind reached 35 mph. On a day when 26 of the 69 golfers failed to break 80, Ochoa posted her second consecutive score of par 73, for a 54-hole total of 6-under 213 at the Women's British Open.

The confounding crosswinds swept her nearest challengers into an untidy pile at over par. Ochoa's nearest challenger is a Swede, but it is not Annika Sorenstam, a 10-time major winner. Linda Wessberg, a one-time winner on the European Tour, fired 1-under 72 - one of only three subpar rounds of the day - and stands at par 219.

Sorenstam, 36, one of the pretournament favorites, is one of four players at 1 over. After carding 77, she had the glassy-eyed look of a shock victim. She has been using a yardage book this week that was given to her by Tiger Woods, her neighbor in Orlando, but there was nothing in it to prepare her for Saturday's conditions.

On one hole, Sorenstam said, she hit a 7-iron that rolled 50 yards. She hit another 7-iron that rolled 10. "How do you plan for that?" she said. "You just can't get upset because once the ball hits the club face, it is out of my control."

The defending champion, Sherri Steinhauer, has won three British Opens and appeared to have a fourth in her sights when she was three shots behind Ochoa after the second round. She carded 80 in the third round and considered herself lucky. "My putting saved me or I don't think I would have broken 90," she said.

Wendy Ward started the round one stroke out of the lead but knew she was in for a long day on the second hole, where she faced a 105-foot putt into a 30-mph wind for birdie.

"Those are shots I don't exactly practice," said Ward, who three-putted for bogey and went on to post 80.

Seminole's Brittany Lincicome shot 2-over 75 and is nine shots back at 3-over 222.

Wessberg, asked if Ochoa could be caught, said, "Maybe if she goes in a few bunkers."

Don't count on it. There are 112 bunkers on the Old Course, but in the first three rounds Ochoa has hit into just two. She found the greenside bunker at No. 13, and it led to the second of her three bogeys in the third round.

"You know, I couldn't be more pleased," Ochoa said. "It was a really tough day, but I just managed to control my shots."

She was disappointed to miss an 8-foot birdie putt at the 18th, but that was just nitpicking on her part. "It was one of my best rounds in my golf career," said Ochoa, who opened with 67. "I really enjoyed it." She added, "I guess everything is the attitude and I'm very happy with the way I'm playing."

Ochoa was asked if it was possible that today her biggest challenge will come from herself.

"Yes," she said. "You could put it that way. That's good."

FAST FACTS

Third-round leaderboard

L. Ochoa 67-73-73 -6

L. Wessberg 74-73-72 E

Notables

A. Sorenstam 72-71-77 +1

S. Pak 73-73-75 +2

B. Lincicome 71-76-75 +3

J. Inkster 79-68-82 +10

Today on TV

1:30-3 p.m. (taped), Ch. 28, Old Course, St. Andrews. Weather: Showers likely; winds 10-15 mph; high 64.

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