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Easy does it for Couch

He finds way to first from worst

Chris Couch is on some kind of wild ride in the Big Easy.

When he arrived Sunday night, he got lost walking to his car in downtown New Orleans and asked a group of women for a ride. That turned into a ''weird" situation, and they let him out in a seedy section of a town that made him so scared Couch ran barefoot for 20 minutes before ducking into a tattoo parlor to call the police.

Stranger still was the spot he was in yesterday.

One day after closing with two tough pars to make the cut on the number, Couch took on gusty conditions for an 8-under-par 64, which left him atop the leaderboard after a wacky, windswept day at the Zurich Classic.

The PGA Tour did not have records of anyone going from worst-to-first in the third round.

''I'm not sure I would have believed it," Couch said.

He finished at 12-under 204 and had a one-shot lead over Charles Howell III (66) and Joe Durant, the 36-hole leader who was still warming up when Couch signed for his card.

Durant and the late starters got the brunt of gusts up to 30 miles per hour and they paid for it. None of the final 16 players who teed off broke par, and Durant was happy to sneak in with a 73, a round that featured only five pars and a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole.

''It was very difficult from the very first shot," Durant said.

He had 115 yards to the first green and decided to hit a knockdown 7-iron. It never had a chance of reaching, and that's about the time Durant knew he was in for a long day. Three straight bogeys were followed by three straight birdies. A gust knocked his wedge down and into the water. Then came the birdie on the last hole, to get into the final group.

''I was trying to hold on more than anything," Durant said.

Dean Wilson (66) and Cameron Beckman (67), both early starters, were at 10-under 206.

Masters champion Phil Mickelson figured he would need a 64 to get into the mix, and all it took was a 68 marred only by a bogey from the bunker on the 17th. He was only three shots behind, along with six others.

Couch, who turns 33 Monday, has led only one other time on the PGA Tour, last year at the Western Open when he tied for 13th.

LPGA -- They are among the shortest LPGA players, but Mi Hyun Kim (5 feet 1 inch) and Ai Miyazato (5-2) are atop the Ginn Clubs & Resorts Open leaderboard heading into today's final round in Reunion, Fla.

Kim shot a 3-under-par round of 69 to get to 11-under for the tournament, three shots ahead of Miyazato -- who was tied for the lead on the par-4 18th before making double bogey.

Christina Kim was alone in third place, five shots off the lead after three straight birdies closed her 69 on a windy day that made already slick greens even more daunting, adding to the challenge of a long course that most tour players hadn't seen before this week and still haven't quite figured out.

''It's got a lot of strange little nuances that no one really knows because not a lot of people have played here a lot," Christina Kim said. ''The greens are what really kills us. It's one of the longest courses we get all year, just over 6,500 yards long. And then you've got the wind.

''This course, it can be a monster."

Maybe so, but Mi Hyun Kim -- who last won on the LPGA Tour in 2002 -- clearly enjoys the layout. The former LPGA rookie of the year made only one bogey yesterday and four birdies.

''I'm nervous every day, every day before when I tee off," Mi Hyun Kim said. ''But after I tee off, I forget about that."

She made her last birdie on No. 18 while Miyazato, one of her playing partners, four-putted.

With one round left, only nine women are within nine shots of the lead. Karrie Webb (69) and Seon Hwa Lee (72) are tied for fourth at 5-under, Lorena Ochoa (75) is alone in sixth at 4-under, and Pat Hurst (69), Lindsey Wright (69), and first-round leader Cristie Kerr (74) all are at 3-under.

Champions -- Bruce Fleisher aced the 177-yard third hole to counter two opening bogeys and finished with a 3-under 69 to take a one-stroke lead after the second round of the wind-swept FedEx Kinko's Classic in Lakeway, Texas.

The 57-year-old Fleisher, winless since taking the 2004 Bruno's Memorial Classic for his 18th Champions Tour, had a 7-under 137 total on The Hills course. He used a 5-iron for the hole-in-one on No. 3 and added birdies on Nos. 9, 12, and 17.

Craig Stadler and senior newcomer David Edwards were tied for second after 70s, and Tom Kite (71) and Ireland's Des Smyth (69) were another stroke back.

European -- David Griffiths of England shot a 6-under 66 for a two-stroke lead after the third round of the Spanish Open in San Roque.

Swede Niclas Fasth (66) and countryman Robert Karlsson (68) are tied for second at 15-under 201.

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