Originally created 05/07/00

McCallister, Franco lead Compaq Classic



NEW ORLEANS -- Carlos Franco and Blaine McCallister have plenty of company at the top of the crowded leaderboard in the Compaq Classic.

While Franco and McCallister shot 4-under-par 68s on Saturday to share the third-round lead, 14 players are within five strokes of the leaders.

"This is the kind of golf course where somebody from the back of the pack can shoot a 64 or 65 at any time," McCallister said. "If you're sitting there trying to protect your lead all of a sudden you can look up and they've gone past you."

Harrison Frazar was a stroke back after a 64 and nine players were within four strokes of the lead.

"Defending my championship is very, very important for me," Franco said. "To win again here would be very big in my country."

Franco, from Paraguay, has found the Compaq course very friendly, shooting in the 60s in seven rounds over two tournaments.

"It seems almost like my home course," he said. "The sort of holes and it's very hot, especially when the wind doesn't blow."

McCallister, who has won five tournaments in his 18-year career, has not won since 1993. On Saturday he shook off two bogeys on the back nine to match Franco at 14-under 202.

"The front nine was very accessible to birdies," McCallister said. "But this back nine is a great competitive course for golf."

After four birdies on the first nine holes, McCallister bounced onto and off of the rock-hard green at 10, landing well in the rough and ended up with his only bogey of the round. McCallister left the hole one shot behind Franco.

"There were a lot of tough pins out there, starting with nine," McCallister said. "I don't know how anyone could get close to that one."

Franco then bogeyed No. 11 while McCallister birdied 11 and 12 to go up two strokes. But McCallister's bogey on 14 coupled with a birdie on 15 by Franco brought the two even again.

"I'm having a little pressure there," Franco said of the tough par-5 hole that stands on an island. "I'm at 13 the other guy is at 14, so I needed a birdie."

The wind that buffeted English Turn for the first two days turned gentle on Saturday dropping from the 25 mph gusts of Friday to a 10 mph breeze. As it went down so did the scores. Only 13 of the 78 players who teed off Saturday finished over par and nobody in the top 54 shot worse than even par.

Frazar, who started the day at 5 under, shook off a bogey on No. 5 with a birdie on No. 9 and played the back nine in 29 strokes.

"If somebody had told me after six holes I'd be in this position, I would have laughed real hard at them," Frazar said. "I was one over par in my round to that point, and I played the last 12 holes 9 under."

Bob Burns, who also shot a 64, was two strokes back along with Stephen Ames, Steve Flesch, Joel Edwards and Stuart Appleby.

Steve Hart and Paul Stankowski were three strokes off the pace at 205. Bill Glasson was four back at 206 and a group of players, including Masters champion Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson, were five strokes back at 207.