Els thrives in helpful conditions

US PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: Faldo struggles to find his touch and is in danger of missing the cut
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The Independent Online
While Nick Faldo was sweating over the half-way cut in the 77th US PGA Championship at the Riviera Country Club, Ernie Els established a significant lead during the second round yesterday.

Both made the perfect start, scoring eagle threes at the par-five first, but it was about the only thing Faldo did right. Whereas he failed to capitalise, Els went from strength to strength. He had a 66 in the first round and followed that with a 65 for an aggregate of 131.

He advanced to 11 under par for the championship, three strokes in front of the former US Amateur champion, Justin Leonard, four in front of Colin Montgomerie, who was seven under with seven holes to play, and 11 in front of the hapless Faldo. Els, who went to the turn in 34, really got down to business on the back nine. He birdied the 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th and 17th to come home in 31.

Els, who won the US Open last year, is playing in only his fourth US PGA Championship and his record to date has been miserable. He missed the cut in 1992 and '93, and was joint 25th 12 months ago. Not only has he the length and strength to dominate the Riviera but also an assured and confident putting touch. On the three par fives yesterday he picked up four strokes.

In contrast, Faldo, who has five major championships to his credit, appears to be losing ground as the younger wave, led by Els, takes up the challenge. Faldo shot 73 in the second round and on 142 is at level par for the championship. With a record-equalling 57 players scoring better than par in the first round the cut was expected to fall at level par.

"Tell us about your round Nick," an American radio reporter said to Faldo. "Oh God," Faldo said. "Give us a break. Give me a few minutes."

Clearly Faldo found the experience of relating his round a painful one. "Nothing happened, nothing's going my way," he said. "I holed one 12-foot putt and that was the longest all day. I just can't read the greens. Everything's frustrating. I don't know what the problem is. You're the experts, you tell me." Asked about his eagle at the first he said: "It must have been luck."

Faldo had an erratic journey over the back nine, recording sixes at the 11th and 13th holes. But it was not just his putting that was troubling him. At the 18th, for example, he duffed a chip shot which resulted in a bogey five. It could prove to be an expensive mistake.

Ian Woosnam was one shot behind Faldo on 143 after a 72, and resigned to missing the cut. His performance did nothing to enhance his chances of playing in the Ryder Cup. He could still qualify on merit should he succeed in the German Open but he has not confirmed that he is playing in the tournament. Bernard Gallacher, the European team captain, has only two selections, and with Faldo expected to get one of them Woosnam's position is precarious.

Not even the US PGA was aware of the existence of Michael Bradley. It issued a release on the first-round leader identifying him as a native of New Zealand. In fact the 29-year-old comes from Florida, although he played on the Australian tour. Bradley won two events in Canada, which is almost a guarantee of anonymity, and on his debut in the PGA Championship he shot 63, equalling the record for a low round in a major.

Those with an early tee time were considered to have a distinct advantage in that they were playing on virgin greens which quickly bore the scar marks of players' spikes. The early birds, including Jim Gallagher Jnr and Mark O'Meara, posted rounds of 64 but Bradley, who has never made the halfway cut in a major championship, defied the odds.

Bradley had the benefit of an early tee time in the second round yesterday. The pressure of leading a major tournament began to tell and a double bogey five at the fourth knocked him off the top of the leaderboard. He finished with a 73 to stand at six under.

Three Europeans still in the hunt are Jose Maria Olazabal, his fellow Spaniard Miguel Jimenez, and the Scot Sam Torrance. All three are on 138, four under par.

Other Europeans prospering out on the course were Barry Lane and his playing partner Per-Ulrik Johansson. Lane went to the turn in 31, and with further birdies at the 10th and 11th was three under for the tournament. Johansson struck a spectacular blow at the long 11th, holing a three wood from 274 yards for an albatross three.

Seve Ballesteros, with a 75, missed the cut and the same fate awaited the Open champion, John Daly.

EARLY SECOND ROUND SCORES

US unless stated

131

E Els (SA) 66 65

134

J Leonard 68 66

135

S Elkington (Aus) 68 67

136

L Janzen 66 70

J Sluman 69 67

M Bradley 63 73

137

B Kamm 71 66

C Stadler 71 66

B Faxon 70 67

138

S Simpson 71 67

D Waldorf 69 69

M A Jimenez (Sp) 69 69

J M Olazabal (Sp) 72 66

S Torrance (GB) 69 69

139

C Rocca (It) 70 69

P Stewart 69 70

F Couples 70 69

T Kite 70 69

140

C Strange 72 68

141

F Zoeller 72 69

M Brooks 67 74

M Ozaki (Japan) 73 68

M Sullivan 72 69

J Adams 65 76

142

D A Weibring 74 68

N Faldo (GB) 69 73

L Roberts 74 68

N Price (Zimb) 71 71

S Pate 71 71

T Watson 71 71

L Wadkins 73 69

C Byrum 71 71

143

B Andrade 71 72

I Woosnam (GB) 71 72

B Ogle (Aus) 72 71

D Kestner 72 71

D Love 71 72

B Bryant 72 71

B Tway 71 72

144

S Hoch 71 73

M Kuramoto (Japan) 73 71

S Rintoul (Aus) 77 67

145

J Reeves 77 68

M Mielke 78 67

H Green 75 70

W Grady (Aus) 75 70

D Martin 72 73

B Zabriski 69 76

147

M McCumber 73 74

T Dolby 73 74

B Chamblee 69 78

T Lehman 72 75

P Stankowski 75 72

C Parry (Aus) 74 71

G Kraft 73 74

B Makoski 74 73

148

P Mickelson 77 71

T Nakajima (Japan) 76 72

G Trivisonno 71 77

J Sobb 72 76

149

D Quigley 74 75

T Tryba 70 79

151

S Ballesteros (Sp) 76 75

152

R Acton 75 77

I Baker-Finch (Aus) 80 72

154

M Burke 78 76

155

K Dinsdale 77 78

B Passons 80 75

157

D Hepler 78 79

160

M Lawrence 83 77

Withdrew

B Lendzion

Disqualified

J Huston

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