Gonzalez takes lead at Italian Open

May 3, 2003 at 2:28 PM
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BRESCIA, Italy, May 3 (UPI) -- Ricardo Gonzalez overcame a potentially disastrous second hole Saturday to take the lead after the third round of the Italian Open.

Gonzalez shot a 6-under-par 66 to move to 13-under 203 and take a one-stroke lead over four players, including second-round leader Peter O'Malley of Australia.

The third day of the event also saw Seve Ballesteros of Spain compare the European Tour to a "mafia" and said the organization was waging "a war" against him after he was disqualified.

Gonzalez, a 33-year-old Argentine who won the European Masters in 2001, started the day in seventh place and looked like he might fall out of contention at the par-5 second hole. His drive found the trees and his second shot found water before finishing with a double-bogey 7.

Gonzalez decided to bypass his driver the rest of the way and he finished with eight birdies over the final 16 holes.

"I was steady after that and was very pleased with the way I played," Gonzalez said. "I have won on Tour before so I know what it takes and I will try to use that experience going into the final round Sunday."

O'Malley's fortunes went the other way on Saturday. He had a birdie and an eagle on the first three holes, but had three bogeys and two birdies over the final 15 holes to finish with a 70.

In the opening round, O'Malley equaled the course record of 64 set by 1997 champion Bernhard Langer.

Alongside O'Malley at 204 were Pierre Fulke and Pehr Magnebrant of Sweden and Rolf Muntz of New Zealand. Fulke, making his first appearance of the season, tied three other golfers for the best round of the day with a 66. The 32-year-old Fulke had been sidelined with a wrist injury.

Defending champion Ian Poulter of England shot a 71 on Saturday and is eight strokes off the pace.

Ballesteros was disqualified for signing for an incorrect score after refusing to accept a one-stroke penalty for slow play. He then called a press conference in which he alleged tour officials were out to get him because of his membership of the so-called "Gang of Four" who complained about how the tour was being run.

Ballesteros claimed the Seve Trophy - a Ryder Cup-style competition - would not survive because the Tour's Executive Director, Ken Schofield, was against it as the Tour "don't have any piece of the cake."

Ballesteros also alleged that Schofield does not speak to his compatriot Jose Maria Olazabal because of his membership of the "Gang of Four," which also contained Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer.

The Tour responded by appointing independent auditors to examine its finances and announced their findings the following year, which seemed to placate the rebels.

However, Ballesteros clearly feels the issue has not been forgotten and insisted his disqualification on Saturday came down to "being against the system."

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