(Costa da Caparica, Portugal May 8 2004) Trish Johnson from England and the Swedish pair of Linda Wessberg and Cecilia Ekelundh are tied on five under par as they head into the final round of the €300,000 Ladies Open of Portugal, sponsored by Lancia, at Aroeira 1 GC near Lisbon.

Linda Wessberg – reaching for the sky

Three players sit two shots further back on three under par including Gwladys Nocera from France, who had a 70, Anne-Marie Knight from Australia who dropped three shots in her last two holes to lose the outright lead and Elisabeth Esterl from Germany, who had a three under 69.

Esterl, winner of last years Tenerife Ladies Open, will hope to go one place better than last year when she lost in a playoff on Aroeira 2 GC to Australian Alison Munt, who this year, missed the cut, which fell at five over par.

Johnson tacked on seven birdies and just one bogey to her opening round of 73 and is the most experienced of the leaders heading into the final round.

The 38-year-old from Chiswick has won 16 titles around the world and played in six European Solheim Cup teams. But it has been four years since she has won on the LET – the Ladies British Masters in 2000 – and victory is high on her list of priorities after the last few seasons have been interrupted with injuries.

Knight – setback at last two holes

“I know I can play good golf,” said Wessberg, an Oklahoma State University Graduate in Business Studies.

“I missed three greens today and each one of them resulted in a bogey. All I need is to keep my brain with me tomorrow and I’m going to give it my best shot. I’m not going to be too worried about it and I’m just going to enjoy myself out there.”

Ekelundh, who like her compatriot will be gunning for her maiden victory, was in a chipper mood, despite battling the chilly Atlantic wind which swirled among the lollipop pine trees here.

“I started off with two birdies and I thought I’d go on from there. I had a few chances but they lipped out, but it was a really strong wind. Some days the putts go in, others not. But tomorrow, I intend to carry on the way I have been playing and see how it goes. I know I can do it though.”

With 26 players within five shots of the lead, the €45,000 first prize is well and truly up for grabs.