Els leads at Blue Monster
Ernie Els took the halfway lead at the WGC-CA Championship in Miami after firing a second round 66.
After a year in which he failed to win for the first time since his rookie season in 1990, Ernie Els has given himself a great chance to reignite his career.
Hours and hours on the practice range paid dividends on Friday with a second-round 66 in the WGC-CA Championship at Doral in Miami.
On 10 under par at halfway, the 40-year-old South African goes into the weekend one in front of Australian Robert Allenby, whose second eventful day in a row included a hole-in-one with a fairway wood at the 245-yard 13th.
“I went back to the drawing board basically,” said Els. “I was a little bit worried going out this week because I’ve not really tested it in competition.
“But it’s been too good days, especially where I was last week. I just got out of whack and when you make changes you’ve got to hit a million balls to get used to it.
“I feel mentally fresh and when you are like that you want to have a bit of game with that.
“If I can get those two flowing I think I might have some good stuff happening and I love the golf courses we’re playing this year in the majors. I love them.
“I’ve done well at Pebble (Beach), I’ve done well at St Andrews and I did well at Whistling Straits.”
Allenby has so far had three eagles, 12 birdies, seven bogeys and a double bogey as he tries for his first victory in the United States since 2001.
Playing partners Ian Poulter and Padraig Harrington, meanwhile, went in totally opposite directions.
Harrington moved into contention on six under following a four-under 68, but three weeks on from his World Match Play victory Poulter crashed to near last place on six over with a 78, and then revealed that he had nearly quit the event because of a neck problem.
The pair finished their day’s work just before the first of two thunderstorm delays, officials wisely having brought forward tee-times by nearly three and a half hours to get in as much play as possible.
Eighteen of the 68-strong field were still to complete their rounds when the second suspension came in mid-afternoon, including Phil Mickelson at four under with one to go and playing partner Rory McIlroy down on five over.
Harrington’s only 2009 success came in the non-Tour Irish PGA Championship, but he was making no promises about putting that right this weekend.
The Dubliner has dropped to 13th in the world with nothing better than a 16th place finish in four starts so far this season.
With that in mind he said: “I have a tradition, unfortunately for me, that I don’t normally win out of the blue.
“It’s very rare. I normally warm up by getting into contention a few times.
“I’m happy with my scoring, but I made a few mental errors out there and missed a few putts.
“Obviously, though, I hit enough good shots and I seemed to have a lot of reasonable chances for birdies.”
His only dropped shot came after he hooked his drive into the lake on the treacherous 18th, his ninth of the day.
Poulter did the same, but for him it was one of seven bogeys.
“I don’t want to make excuses for that round, but I nearly didn’t play yesterday,” said the world number five.
“The neck’s been coming on for a while and the pillows are not very good this week.
“My usual physio guy is in Australia, so I had to get some treatment when I got to the course and as I went to practice I still wasn’t sure I’d be playing.”
Poulter got round in a level par 72 on the opening day, but every mistake was punished on his return to the Blue Monster course.
There is no halfway cut in the tournament and he will have to make a decision on whether it is wise to continue for the closing 36 holes if the problem persists.
Paul Casey, three under overnight, remained there with a 72 and Luke Donald’s 75 dropped him to one over alongside Simon Dyson (73).
Lee Westwood was four under for the round and two under for the tournament with two to go, Ross Fisher and Graeme McDowell level par coming to the closing holes, while Ross McGowan was three over and Oliver Wilson joint last on eight over.
Dane Soren Hansen, in court in his home country next Friday on a tax matter reported to involve around £2million, kept alive his hopes of the first prize of £925,000 with a second successive 69 to be alongside Harrington.
“I’ve not had a chance to explain myself at all and that’s what I’m going to do in court,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say it impacted me that much. I’ve played Ryder Cup, I’ve won golf tournaments, I’ve played well this week. I know I’m on the good side.
“Obviously its been bothering me, but not that much that I’ve taken it to the golf course.
“I’m going to put the clubs away for a while and get it all done and sorted.”
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