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Setting suits Steinhauer well

Sherri Steinhauer enjoys playing at Royal Lytham -- and it shows.

Steinhauer rolled in a 50-foot putt on her way to a 6-under-par 66 yesterday to take a three-stroke lead at the Women's British Open in Lytham St. Annes, England.

After 46-year-old Juli Inkster squandered the three-stroke lead she held following the second round, the 43-year-old Steinhauer took over on the course where she won the first of her two British Open titles to move to 7-under 209 after three rounds.

``I have great memories from here," said Steinhauer, who won at Royal Lytham in 1998. ``When we came back here in 2003, I wasn't swinging well and I did miss the cut. I didn't play well. But I'm swinging better now and I just love this golf course."

Inkster (74), Lorena Ochoa (65), 2000 British Open champion Sophie Gustafson (69), and 2004 winner Karen Stupples (70) were all at 4-under 212. Annika Sorenstam, who won the event in 2003, was seven strokes back after a 1-over 73.

Michelle Wie failed to finish below par for the sixth straight round in a major, shooting an even-par 72 and falling 11 strokes off the lead.

``I'm not making birdies," said Wie, who is at 4-over 220 and tied for 32d. ``That's the bottom line. I'm playing well. My scores aren't coming through. It's very frustrating when I play. But I feel it's all going to come down tomorrow."

Steinhauer picked up five shots in six holes on the back nine on the same course where she recovered from an opening-round 81 to win the title in 1998. In addition to her long eagle putt at the 464-yard par-5 15th, she made putts of 25 and 30 feet for birdies.

Trying to become the oldest LPGA player to win a major, Inkster birdied the first hole before her round fell apart. She made a double-bogey 7 at the seventh when she drove into a fairway bunker and three-putted. She found another bunker at the 10th and two-putted from 3 feet for another double bogey.

Ochoa carded the best round of the tournament, starting and finishing with birdies and having five more in between without a single bogey to move into a tie for second.

PGA -- Tiger Woods closed in on his second straight victory with a big assist from a fan, birdieing two of his last three holes for his third straight 6-under 66 and a two-stroke lead in the Buick Open at Grand Blanc, Mich.

Woods surged into position for his 50th tour victory with a birdie at No. 16 and caught a break on the last hole. His tee shot went way left and ricocheted off a spectator and into the fairway. Woods thanked the fan by giving him a signed glove, and ended up making a 7-footer for birdie to finish at 18-under 198.

Robert Allenby, Lucas Glover, and Scott Verplank were tied for second after 66s. Two-time defending champion Vijay Singh (68) was three strokes behind in a group of five that included Vaughn Taylor, who matched the third-round tournament record with a 63.

Woods resumed the rain-delayed second round early yesterday at the par-5 16th and promptly hooked his tee shot out of bounds. He bogeyed the hole but finished with a 66, good for 12 under and one shot behind Brett Quigley.

Quigley had a 71 in the third round to finish at 14 under.

Champions -- At Blaine, Minn., Curtis Strange moved into position for his first tour victory, shooting a 6-under 66 to lead by three over David Edwards (68) at the 3M Championship.

European -- Robert Karlsson broke the Barseback course record with a 9-under 63 and gained a share of the lead with Nicolas Colsaerts (73) after the third round of the Scandinavian Masters in Loddekopinge, Sweden.

Nationwide -- Craig Bowden and Ryan Armour each fired a 5-under 66 to share a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Cox Classic in Omaha. Brad Adamonis of Cumberland, R.I., shot a second straight 66 to pull within two.

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