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Young Byrd Looking Strong in Panama

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CORONADO, Panama - Three rounds later, Jonathan Byrd is still the story, but there's no lacking for subplots.
 
Byrd chipped in for birdie on 18 to maintain his three-shot lead after three rounds of the $200,000 Panama Open Panasonic, the final event of the 2000 Canadian Tour season.
 
But right behind Byrd's third straight round in the 60's and a rare afternoon rain shower during this Central American country's 'Dry Season,' you have the story of Bob Friend.
 
The 1998 Panama Open champion and 5-year PGA Tour veteran had two eagles on his way to a tournament-low 65 on Saturday at the 6,983-yard Coronado Resort and Hotel Course, vaulting him into a tie with Steve Runge at 11-under-par 205, three back of Byrd.
 
Tim Straub trails by four after a 4-under 68. Stephen Gangluff, at 7-under through 54 holes, is the only other player within 7 shots of Byrd.
 
Byrd led Cioe by three after 36 holes, and three birdies on the back nine built Byrd's cushion back to three. But finishing 90 minutes earlier, Friend posted his lowest round in 13 months, giving him some confidence heading into Sunday.
 
'It does give me a lot of confidence to play well, whether it's in the United States, or Europe, or Panama,' said Friend, who played on the PGA Tour in 1992, '93, '98, '99 and '00. 'I'm going to go out tomorrow and try and win the golf tournament. It would be a great way to start the season.'
 
Much of that season for Friend will come on the Buy.Com Tour. Friend will play in Australia for three weeks in February before playing 'as many events as I have to play in on the Buy.Com Tour to make the top 15,' he said.
 
But it appears Friend will have his hands full catching Byrd on Sunday. The 23-year-old has made just three bogies through 54 holes. And there's no questioning his dedication. Less than an hour after signing his card on Saturday, with clubs on his back, he walked past the oversized pool of this ocean-side resort, right on to the driving range.
 
Only time will tell if hard work beats experience come Sunday afternoon.

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