Els awaits his opportunity to unseat Montgomerie

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Ernie Els is used to having the upper hand on Colin Montgomerie, and clearly the South African is waiting for revenge after losing a play-off to the Scot in last month's Million Dollar Challenge in Sun City.

Els is thinking of rejoining the European tour and could be the man to bring Monty's sequence of four money list titles to an end. It would be a considerable feat since Montgomerie, who lost to Els at the 1994 US Open and World Match Play, will be playing twice as many events.

Yet victory in the Johnnie Walker Classic would be a nice start. After two rounds at Hope Island, Els is comfortably placed at six under, level with the Australian Peter Lonard and two behind the leader, Michael Long from New Zealand.

A change in the tour regulations means a player can include the three American major championships in the minimum of 11 tournaments he needs to play to appear on the Volvo Ranking, although the money won will not count. Els is appearing next week in Perth and then at the South African Open, both European tour co-sanctioned events, and then plans to play in the Volvo PGA, the Irish Open and at Loch Lomond prior to the Open.

That leaves him one short of the 11 he needs, but Els has often appeared at the German Masters, which this year is scheduled the week before the unofficial Toyota World Match Play, where he is the three-times defending champion. "I am aware of the change of regulation and am thinking about rejoining the European tour," Els, who moved full-time to the US tour in 1995, said.

"The change was made at a recent Tournament Committee meeting because more European tour players are playing in the three American majors," John Paramor, the tour's chief referee, said. "If it also means Ernie wants to rejoin the tour, then we would be delighted."

Ironically, the switch will not alter Nick Faldo's plans. He will still only make occasional appearances, as this week, outside America. "I am happy with my schedule and I don't want to be dashing backwards and forwards," he said.

Els dealt effectively with the strengthening wind at Hope Island which, with its exposed, elevated and ever-hardening greens, is exhibiting links- like characteristics. The South African recorded his third eagle in two days with a 45-foot putt at the 17th in his 68. Long also eagled the hole by hitting a seven iron to five feet and then rolled in a 15-footer at the last.

With Faldo six, Ian Woosnam eight and Montgomerie nine back, Royal Lytham's Paul Eales is the leading Briton at five under. Eales may have been outdriven by Els in the last group of Saturday's play in this tournament last year, but Eales shot the lower score. "Ernie learnt a lot from playing with me last year and how I managed to earn a living from the game," Eales joked.

Fred Couples dropped out of contention with an eight at the par-five ninth but John Daly is not even here for the weekend. The Wild One added a 79 to his earlier 77 and said: "It seems you have to use irons on every tee in Australia. It's kind of crazy." Perhaps he should bring his own brand of golf course design to the country? "I don't think there is enough land," he sighed.

JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC (Hope Island, Queensland) Leading second-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 136 M Long (NZ) 68 68. 138 E Els (SA) 70 68; P Lonard (Aus) 69 69. 139 P Eales 69 70; J Van de Velde (Fr) 70 69. 140 A Cejka (Ger) 73 67; A Painter (Aus) 67 73. 141 M Campbell (NZ) 70 71; D Howell 69 72; S Leaney (Aus) 69 72; P O'Malley (Aus) 73 68; S Alker (NZ) 68 73. 142 C Suneson (Sp) 75 67; M Tunnicliff 69 73; M Farry (Fr) 72 70; N Faldo 70 72; F Tarnaud (Fr) 72 70; S Conran (Aus) 67 75; D Carter 67 75; B Lane 71 71. 143 J Haeggman (Swe) 72 71; R Russell 74 69; A Kadir (Malay) 70 73; T Gogele (Ger) 71 72; F Nobilo (NZ) 70 73; F Casas (Phil) 68 75. 144 A Bossert (Swit) 70 74; G Chalmers (Aus) 71 73; A Sherborne 71 73; I Woosnam 74 70; S Robinson (Aus) 72 72; G Evans 73 71; R Gibson (Can) 68 76; R Green (Aus) 71 73; Zhang Lian-wei (Ch) 69 75; S Laycock (Aus) 69 75; P Broadhurst 74 70; C Jones (Aus) 68 76; P Harrington 71 73; F Couples (US) 68 76.