Els feels at home

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ERNIE ELS may be seeing more clearly with his new contact lens but, if he wants to bring the rest of the field into better focus, eyes in the back of his head might be of more use to him.

Playing catch-up when the South African is topping the leaderboard can be as difficult as trying to get a golf tournament back on schedule after some of the worst flooding South Africa has seen, and which has left 60 people dead. Els shot his 64 by early Friday afternoon, and was only able to tee off in his second round late yesterday.

In that time he was not passed at the top of the Alfred Dunhill South African PGA leaderboard, though as he set out to start a round he would not finish before nightfall, he was joined at eight-under by Scotland's Andrew Coltart and the South African Brett Liddle, who had four birdies in a row in his second-round 66.

Liddle, 25, lives on the very outskirts of Johannesburg and had to get out of bed at 4.30am in order to be at the course for an expected 6.45am resumption of the first round. Coltart had the luxury of an extra half- hour lie-in, but more overnight rain delayed play until 9.00am.

After playing five holes to complete an opening 69 the Scot, who lost a play-off to Ian Woosnam in Singapore three weeks ago, then went straight out and returned a five-under 67. His only dropped shot came at the fifth (his 14th) when his first shot after a 45-minute break, as thunder passed overhead, missed the green on the right and he failed to get up and down.

He immediately recouped that shot with a birdie at the next, thanks to a three-iron to 10 feet. "Before the break, I was playing really well and managing not to worry about all the interruptions," he said. "But when I came back it felt as if I had not had a club in my hand for two days."

That has been the prevailing feeling in a soggy Johannesburg. "It has been like Groundhog Day," the 25-year-old said. "I played seven holes on Monday and then spent the afternoon in my hotel room, likewise all of Tuesday. On Wednesday, I had to get out and went and hit some balls at a driving range, but it has not been great preparation."

Coltart's only defeat in eight Alfred Dunhill Cup matches for Scotland came at the hands of Els last year. "I'd love to get my own back," he said, "but the course is holding up well and there are plenty of birdie chances out there, especially for someone of his length."

Failure to complete the second round yesterday has ruled out the option of playing 36 holes today, so the tournament has been cut to 54 holes. Els, defending his title, had to wait for his first birdie at the fifth to re-establish his narrow advantage.