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Howell, Hansen share 1st in Paris

David Howell fired a 4-under 67 on Saturday to take a share of first place after three rounds of the Open de France.

Howell finished 54 holes at 6-under-par 207, and is tied for the lead with Anders Hansen, who carded a 2-under 70 at Le Golf National.

Howell and Hansen are both winners on the European Tour, but it has been a while since either claimed a title. The British Howell last triumphed in 2006, when he won the HSBC Champions and BMW Championship. Hansen, from Denmark, was last in the winner's circle at the 2009 Joburg Open.

They will head into Sunday with a 1-stroke lead over South African George Coetzee (70), who is alone in second at minus-5.

Second-round leader Marcel Siem struggled to a 2-over 73 and slipped into fourth at 4-under 209. He shares that place with Raphael Jacquelin (70), the highest-placed Frenchman.

"It was great to see the public coming, even if the weather was not very good," Jacquelin said. "I hope they are going to be there a lot tomorrow and support me. I will try to do my best, and we'll see."

The tournament managed to get through the third round despite less-than-ideal weather. Storms in the area forced play to be suspended for a short time, and the round finished under dark clouds.

Howell reached minus-6 during a round that contained only one bogey, which came at the fourth hole. But he rebounded with a birdie at the next hole, then birdied the par-5 ninth to make the turn at minus-4.

Two birdies on the back nine vaulted him into contention. The first came at the par-5 14th, then he stuck his tee shot within three feet at the par-3 16th.

Howell played in the fifth-to-last group, and when he finished, it didn't appear that he'd have a chance to hold the lead.

Coetzee had poured in four birdies during his first 12 holes to reach 8-under, while Hansen got to the same number with four birdies in his first 14 holes.

But both stumbled coming down the stretch.

Coetzee, playing in the second-to-last threesome, followed his birdie at 12 with a bogey at 13. He also bogeyed his 16th before another dropped stroke at the last dropped him below Howell on the leaderboard.

Hansen was in Siem's group and bogeyed 16 and 17 to drop into a tie with Howell.

"Two bogeys on a tough, tough day like today, it's very decent," Hansen said.

Siem didn't get anything going all day, and was still at minus-6 after carding two birdies and two bogeys through 15 holes. But, like Hansen, he bogeyed 16 and 17, and fell out of the lead completely.

Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter both shot 69 on Saturday and share sixth place at 3-under 210.

Match Play winner Nicolas Colsaerts (69), Wales Open champion Thongchai Jaidee (70), Brendan Steele (71), David Lynn (72) and Alexander Noren (74) are another shot back, tied for eighth at minus-2.

NOTES: The weather-delay horn sounded just as Graeme McDowell sank a birdie putt at the last to complete a round of even-par 71. As it rolled in, McDowell smiles, dropped to his knees and raised his hands to the air. After the round, he wrote on Twitter: "That was the golfing equivalent of a buzzer beater!!!! Ya little dancer. Tidied up a dodgy day."...McDowell is tied for 13th at minus-1...Howell's 67 was tied for the low round of the day with Retief Goosen, who is part of the 13th-place group.

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