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Robert Allenby extends lead to 5 despite injury

Australian Open third round leader Robert Allenby may be forced out of the championship by a painful hand injury aggravated as he used a toilet at Moonah Links today.

Allenby leads by five shots, but said he couldn't guarantee he would make the first tee tomorrow.

The bizarre injury occurred after the 15th hole as Allenby attempted to lock the door on the on-course portable loo.

Allenby said he had entered the toilet and reached behind him to lock the door when he heard spectators approaching.

The movement sent shooting pains through his wrist, arm and shoulder, forcing him to call for a physiotherapist before he could continue.

The US-based golfer had been plagued by swelling of the joints of his right hand since February, a condition he further aggravated when he damaged a tendon in his hand after falling on broken glass three weeks ago.

"The nerve went in my middle finger," Allenby said.

"I just hope I get it right by tomorrow."

Despite being unable to properly grip the golf club, Allenby's final three holes ranked among his best for the day.

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Into the wind at the par-three 17th he hit a five wood, where normally he would have taken five iron.

"I just picked the club I could make the smoothest swing with," Allenby said.

At 18 he again selected the five wood off the tee at the par five hole, followed by three wood and five wood again.

"I knew my hand would fall off the club at impact," he said.

"I had no power, no feeling.

"I can't guarantee I'll be here tomorrow."

Allenby amazed himself by making birdie for a level-par 72 and a nine-under par total of 207.

In second place, also after 72 today, is New South Welshman Paul Sheehan.

A further shot behind are Nick O'Hern from Western Australia, Rod Pampling of Queensland and Victoria's Martin Doyle.

But the hero in all respects is Allenby.

After opening the championship with a course record 63 the competition leader kept it together in tough conditions in the second round where he shot 72 and when the wind turned around today he again proved the equal of a course that has destroyed some of Australia's best.

Among them was world No. 8 Adam Scott, who began today four behind Allenby.

A three-time winner in the US, Scott is still looking for his first Australian victory, but a round of 77 today means he will still be searching when the Open is over.

The hostile conditions at Moonah Links today rivalled those of the second round, the only difference being that the wind blew from a different direction.

Scott provided an indication of its strength, driving his tee shot 341m with the wind at his back at the 13th and 224m when into it at the next.

With his attention focused so intently on his hand, Allenby seemed less concerned with the ordeal presented by a course that is attracting increasingly bitter criticism from his fellow professionals.

Moonah Links was designed to provide the toughest test available, but many feel it too tough.

Craig Parry reacted today by declaring it unplayable for golfers of his modest length.

"What are they trying to do to us?" he said.

"The average hitter can't play this golf course."

Multiple US-winner Stuart Appleby said it was unfit to host a tournament of the Open's standing.

"We shouldn't be playing an Australian Open here - we should be playing on a top 10 course.

"To think that courses like Royal Melbourne and Kingston Heath are sitting there while we play this place is ridiculous."

The Open's organiser the Australian Golf Union has a financial stake in Moonah Links and has undertaken to play five championships at the course over 15 years.

November 26, 2005

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