Lara Leads Clarke Still in the Hunt

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2005 Smurfit European OpenDUBLIN, Ireland -- Jose Manuel Lara fired a 5-under 67 in tough conditions Saturday to take a one-stroke lead after three rounds of the European Open. Lara completed 54 holes at 9-under-par 207.
 
Players battled strong winds and heavy rain throughout the round Saturday. Lara's 67 was one of three on the day, but generally scores soared in the bad conditions.
 
Anthony Wall posted a 2-under 70 in the third round to move into second place at 8-under-par 208. Simon Khan climbed into a share of third at minus-7 thanks to a 4-under 68. He stands alongside Darren Clarke, Stephen Dodd and Jamie Spence.
 
Second-round leader Bradley Dredge struggled to a 5-over 41 on the back nine to tumble from the top spot on the leaderboard. He ended with a 3-over 75 that dropped him into a share of seventh with Paul Casey and Steven O'Hara at 6-under-par 210.
 
United States Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman notched his second straight 2-under 70. He is in 10th place with Peter Hanson at minus-5. Lehman is scouting out The K Club this week as the venue's Palmer Course will host the Ryder Cup in the fall. This week's event though is being contested on the Smurfit Course.
 
Dredge was in control of the event for most of the front nine. Birdies on two, three and five gave him a five-stroke lead at 12 under par. Things started to fall apart on the seventh, where he tripped to his first bogey of the event.
 
The Welshman scrambled to five straight pars from there, but more trouble was on tap. Dredge found heavy rough at the par-4 13th and pitched his second shot sideways.
 
Dredge could not recover from there stumbling to a double bogey. He bogeyed each of the next two holes to fall to 8 under, one behind Wall. Dredge also bogeyed the last to end three back.
 
'I think the wet factor set in. It was pretty windy and wet and the ball seemed to squirt of my driver a bit,' Dredge stated. 'I hit some awful ones on the back nine.'
 
Wall birdied two and three, then bogeyed the fourth. He birdied the 11th for the third round in a row. Wall posted back-to-back birdies from the 14th to get to 10 under and the lead. However, he bogeyed his next two holes to end at minus-8.
 
'For the middle of July, it was pretty wet and cold and I think the cold got to me over the last few holes,' Wall admitted.
 
Meanwhile, Lara was flying up the leaderboard with a great front nine. He dropped a stroke on the par-4 first to slip to minus-3 , but bounced back with birdies on three and four.
 
The Spaniard ran off three straight birdies from the seventh to get to 8-under. Lara then birdied the par-4 11th. He gave a stroke back with a bogey on 13, but a birdie at the par-5 closing hole gave him the overnight lead.
 
'It's pretty much the same situation as 2004 except that I am two years older,' said Lara, who trailed Goosen by one entering the final round in 2004. 'I feel comfortable here, even in this weather. I like the course. I like the greens and I am now going to play my own game and see how things go.
 
'There are many players within a few shots of me, so anyone can win. The important thing is that I am one of them. Two years ago I was very confident that I could win. I don't have any wins yet, but all that could change tomorrow.'
 
Lara leads after 54 holes for the first time in his European Tour career. He will go for his first tour crown on Sunday.
 
Eight-time Order of Merit champion Colin Montgomerie and five other players share 12th at 4-under-par 212.
 
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