Els stays in the title hunt in S'pore Caltex Masters


BY NIUH JIT ENG

SINGAPORE: World number two Ernie Els of South Africa battled the heat and ringing mobile-phones to lead the US$900,000 Singapore Caltex Masters at the half-way mark with a two-round total of eight-under 136 at the Laguna National Golf and Country Club here yesterday. 

Els, who is bidding to win his fourth consecutive title, started the day by completing the final three holes of Thursday’s postponed first round for a three-under 69.  

He then carded a 67 to take a one- stroke lead over defending champion Arjun Atwal of India, Scotland’s Simon Yates and Jeev Milkha Singh of India.  

On Thursday, play was suspended due to rain with Els at five-under after 15 holes.  

Yesterday, play was again stopped due to fading lights with 21 golfers yet to complete the second round. They will complete their second round today. 

Els, the burly South African nicknamed Big Easy for his smooth swing and easy going nature, yesterday resumed the first round play with a double bogey on the par three 17th hole but recovered to pick up four birdies and one eagle in the second round – amidst incessant cell-phone ringing from the crowd that followed him. 

“The people out there are great and very enthusiastic ... taking shots of my swing but their cell-phones kept ringing, it’s pretty outrageous. 

“There’s a thing call voicemail! But I guess it’s a problem everywhere in the world,” said Els, who became the first golfer in 14 years to win the first two US PGA Tour tournaments of the year when he captured the Mercedes Championship and Sony Open, both in Hawaii. 

On his game, Els said getting his putting speed right was crucial for the next two days. 

“I felt comfortable on the course and hit a lot of greens but I did not quite get the putting speed right ... it’s quite frustrating but I’m looking forward to the weekend. There’s a lot of low scores to be made out there if I can get the speed right,” said the in-form 33-year-old. 

“But it’s a new week and I’m trying to deal with some jet-lag. However I feel my game is still there ... my swing is good and my scores have given me a chance to do well in the weekend,” he added.  

SECOND ROUND SCORES (Britain unless stated) Note: 21 players have yet to complete second round 

136: Ernie Els (Rsa) 69-67; 137: Arjun Atwal (Ind) 67-70, Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind) 66-71, Simon Yates 68-69; 138: Gary Murphy (Ire) 70-68; 139: Lam Chih Beng (Sin) 69-70, Jyoti Randhawa (Ind) 70-69, Thammanoon Srirot (Tha) 70-69, Zhang Lian Wei (Chn) 68-71; 140: Markus Brier (Aut) 69-71, Anders Hansen (Den) 69-71, Kang Wook-soon (Kor) 71-69, James Kingston (Rsa) 70-70, Mardan Mamat (Sin) 70-70, Prayad Marksaeng (Tha) 73-67, Andrew Marshall 67-73, Ted Purdy (US) 69-71; 141: John Bickerton 68-73, Stephen Dodd 70-71, Gregory Hanrahan (US) 66-75, Jan Are Larsen (Nor) 71-70, Gerry Norquist (US) 71-70, Fran Quinn (US) 71-70, Gustavo Rojas (Arg) 67-74, Yeh Wei Tze (Tpe) 69-72. 

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