Could today be event's lifeline?

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For all we know, the deal is done. For all we know, some Belgian brewmaster/ beancounter has decided to terminate the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill.

But if not, what can save Hampton Roads' LPGA tournament? A stirring final round this afternoon? Another marquee champion?

Crowds that clog I-64 back to Fort Eustis? A 10-percent spike in Stella sales?

Or is today goodbye to Lorena, Natalie and a gaggle of Kims?

Answers are weeks, if not months, away as Anheuser-Busch suits ponder the event's value during lean times. But three things we do know.

Having ESPN2 bounce the Mich in favor of college lacrosse Saturday was not a good sign.

An obscure winner today, no matter how deserving and charming, will not help the cause. Sorry, Lindsey Wright, In-Kyung Kim, Song-Hee Kim and Wendy Ward.

"No drama" may have been an effective and rhyming mantra for a certain presidential campaign, but it doesn't work for a golf tournament on life support.

On that last count, today is replete with possibilities. Wright and 2005 Kingsmill champ Cristie Kerr, No. 6 in the world rankings, share the lead at 15 under par, with five others within five strokes.

And if you think a handful of shots is a bridge too far, consider Saturday's third round. Tour bigfoot Lorena Ochoa arrived leading by three and departed trailing by five.

"I don't know what happened," she said after a 3-over 74, her worst round of the year.

What happened was she made a hash of the tame 14th hole, airmailing an 8-iron approach from 135 yards — she misjudged the wind badly — and flubbing three chips en route to a double-bogey 6. Unsightly, yes, but when the world's No. 1 turns into Charles Barkley, it makes for compelling television.

Speaking of the boob tube, ESPN2 was scheduled to air Saturday's round from 2-4 p.m. But come the appointed hour, the network stuck with a first-round NCAA men's lacrosse tournament game between Brown and Johns Hopkins.

Talk about a slap in the kisser.

Now as a Baltimore brat, I love lax. But exiling women's golf to ESPN Classic for 30 minutes while Hopkins completes its overtime victory?

At least give us split-screen of Natalie Gulbis and Dave Pietramala (that's Hopkins' coach, for you lax-impaired).

Gulbis elbowed her way into the conversation Saturday with a 68 that leaves her five off the lead. She is among three possible champs who would boost the tournament's Q-rating, and not just because she's the tour's most ogled fashion plate — she also has an endorsement deal with Michelob Ultra and would make an ideal promotional poster.

As would Kerr or Ochoa, veteran world-class players comfortable not only as athletes but also as marketing vehicles.

Kerr is the leading money-winner in the Michelob's brief history with $623,610. Her 17 rounds under par and 15 in the 60s also are tops.

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