McDowell takes Zurich lead on final swing

Friday, April 28, 2006

NEW ORLEANS -- Graeme McDowell already was thrilled with how he played Thursday in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. One last shot made him feel even better.

McDowell finished off a flawless round in easy conditions at English Turn by one-hopping a wedge from 116 yards into the cup for eagle on the ninth hole, giving him an 8-under 64 for a one-shot lead over Stuart Appleby.

"That's a real bonus," McDowell said. "It doesn't matter how good you hit. To get the ball in the cup takes a bit of luck."

It took just that to keep Appleby from leading a PGA Tour event for the fifth consecutive round. Coming off a wire-to-wire victory last week in the Houston Open, he again made it look easy by never coming seriously close to bogey and hitting a wedge into 4 feet for birdie on the 18th hole for a 65.

And it took an eagle from McDowell to get a small measure of separation from a jam-packed leaderboard, brought on by soft, slow conditions on a course that played so easy that McDowell found himself reaching for a wedge on nearly every hole.

Ten players were in the group at 66, including two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, who made a late bogey with his best swing of the day, a 5-iron that cut through the breeze and went over the 17th green.

The average score was about 70.5, and only 40 players in the 156-man field failed to shoot par or better.

Masters champion Phil Mickelson, playing for the first time since slipping on his second green jacket two weeks ago, shot 68 -- still trailing 21 players.

-- AP

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