Golf: Els turns tables on sad Spaniard: US Open hopefuls struggling

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The Independent Online
TWO weeks ago Jose Maria Olazabal beat Ernie Els at the Volvo PGA at Wentworth. Yesterday Olazabal was on an early flight to Oakmont after a nine over par performance at Westchester Country Club while Els was leading the

Buick Classic by a stroke with an eight-under-par 36-hole total.

The 24-year-old South African, second to Olazabal in the Order of Merit, shot a round without bogeys of 66, five under par, to reach the halfway stage one stroke ahead of first-round leader Mike Reid.

Els, who plans to play here full time after this year, is leading a US tournament for the first time. 'I got away with a few good breaks, but I played very solidly,' he said. 'This afternoon you had to play conservatively because the greens were so hard. But that's what you have to do out here, hit fairways and greens. I like it when courses are set up tough.'

Els's ability to perform in the big tournaments shows up in his major championship record. He has played in just seven majors, but has four top 10 finishes, most recently an eighth at his first Masters.

Seve Ballesteros was the only other European tour member to make the cut, shooting a 73 for a two over total of 144, one stroke below the cut. 'I worked hard on the range last night, but it was a waste of time because there were too many things to work on,' Ballesteros said. 'The only good thing was the tee shots, my iron play is nowhere near good enough.'

The other Spaniard, Olazabal, said after his round of 75: 'My driving is hopeless, I struggled with my irons, and my putting is awful.'

BUICK WESTCHESTER CLASSIC (Harrison, NY) Second-round scores (US unless stated): 134 E Els (S Afr) 68 66, 135 M Reid 65 70, 136 N Ozaki (Jap) 69 67, 137 B Estes 66 71, B Bryant 70 67, 138 B Faxon 70 68, S Pate 66 72, L Janzen 69 69, G Hallberg 71 67, J Haas 68 70 F Couples 70 68, 139 B McCallister 72 67, F Funk 69 70, 140 G Norman (Aus) 73 67, W Levi 66 74, D Tewell 68 72, P Blackmar 68 72, J Flannery 72 68, 141 B Tway 71 70, S Verplank 71 70, C Pavin 72 69, M Brooks 71 70, Selected: 144 S Ballesteros (Sp) 71 73, D Feherty (N Irl) 74 70, 145 J Parnevik (Swe) 72 73, 151 P Baker (Eng) 78 73, J M Olazabal (Sp) 76 75.