Wind buffets challengers as Davies stays in McDonald's lead


WILMINGTON, Del. -- The leaderboard took a beating, as names and numbers went up and down like yo-yos during the third round of the McDonald's Championship at DuPont Country Club yesterday.

Although this was a warm, sunny day, a swirling afternoon wind that gusted to 15 mph played havoc with the scoring. "It was impossible to judge and made conditions extremely difficult," was an oft-repeated comment.

As it developed, one thing remained constant -- Laura Davies was never out of the lead. She fell into a tie on a couple of occasions, but such were the comings and goings of those playing ahead of her, that, despite a bogey at No. 17, she finished with a 2-over-par 73, and a three-round total of 208.

This was a day when one of the co-leaders at the start, Gail Graham, could make a triple bogey on the first hole, shoot 41 for nine holes, then make a 50-foot putt at the last green to be one of three tied for second, a shot out of the lead. She wound up 74209.

Once again, the international set has taken charge of an LPGA tournament, as Davies, from England, and Graham, from British Columbia, are joined by Akiko Fukushima of Japan (68209) and Alicia Dibos of Peru (69210).

Lauri Merten, an area resident for the past five years, bogeyed the 18th hole when she missed the green, ran a chip shot nine feet past and missed coming back for 72209.

Hollis Stacy, a three-time U.S. Women's Open champion enjoying a banner season at age 39, birdied the last hole for 70 and a tie with Dibos.

Looking at her one-stroke lead, Davies said of today's windup, "My goal is to go out and shoot the best round of the day."

Yesterday, she was playing well and had just missed a short birdie putt at No. 9, when she made a double bogey at the 360-yard 10th. "That was a bit of shock," she said later.

She drove into a second cut of rough, a 9-iron shot flew on her and went over the back of the green, from where it took two chips to reach the green and two putts to get down.

She recovered with a pair of short birdie putts before hitting a bad tee shot into a bunker at the 156-yard 17th, then did not get up and down, missing her putt from 10 feet.

After her disastrous front nine, Graham said: "The whole back nine [three birdies] really made me feel better. With the wind, I didn't think anyone would shoot a really low number."

At No. 1, she hit it way left, could only chip out sideways, hit an 8-iron shot on the green, then three-putted from 20 feet, missing the second from six feet.

Fukushima, 19, is a sturdy power hitter who turned pro last August after finishing 39th in the British Women's Open and 29th in the U.S. Women's Open. She was 1-over through 11 holes, then birdied four of the last seven on putts of between 15 and 20 feet.

Dibos, another relative unknown, is a tour rookie who has made )) rTC four cuts in seven events. Her finishes were 83rd, tied for 71st and tied for 50th, with a low round of 68.

The newcomer, 30, is a veteran of the European women's professionaltour, with a best finish of second in the French Open last year. Today, she will be after her best final round of the year. Her previous efforts were 76, 79 and 78.

She set up her low round of the week with four successive birdies (9-12), all on putts of less than 10 feet. "I've been playing steady, but did not know I was tied for the lead. That was some of the advice I have had -- not to look. She and Merten had a similar problem, as Dibos was playing with Dottie Mochrie, "the first time with a player of that caliber, and I enjoyed watching her," and Merten admitted she was more concerned about not embarrassing herself playing with two-time U.S. Open champion and

defending LPGA champion Betsy King than playing in front of a hometown gallery.

Baltimorean Tina Barrett continued to improve her scoring, shooting 34-37 for a par-matching 71 and a total of 3-over-par 216. She had earlier rounds of 73-72.

For the round, she had three birdies and three bogeys, and pointed out

she was still not happy with the way she was hitting the ball.

Kim Williams, from Bethesda, finished with a 2-over-par 73, for 219.

NOTES: Mary Beth Zimmerman got in the day's low round, a 65, in the morning before the wind became a factor. She had 30-35, with no pars on the front (seven birdies, two bogeys), then had two birdies and a bogey on the back. Brandie Burton, also playing early, shot 66.

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