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Els foiled in Florida as heavy weather sees play suspended

Ernie Els held a two-shot lead over Kevin Na when the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational was suspended by thunderstorms at Bay Hill in Florida last night.

Els had a five-shot lead with six holes to play and looked to be cruising toward his second straight victory until hitting into the water for a double bogey on the 13th and into the sand for a bogey on the next hole. He was at 11-under par and on the 15th hole. Na was at nine under and on the front of the 15th green in two, 80ft from the hole. The group another shot back included Ben Curtis and Chris Couch, who were playing with Els; and Retief Goosen, who was on the 18th tee. The round is to resume today after thunderstorms soaked the golf course for three hours.

"I was playing well and Ernie looked like he was struggling," Na said. "Probably good for Ernie that they called it so he can clear his head a little bit. I need to make birdies to catch Ernie."

Els went two years without winning, and was poised to only wait two weeks this time. He ended the longest drought of his career at Doral with a four-shot victory, and is trying to become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2001 to win twice on the Florida swing.

He started the final round with a one-shot lead and quickly seized control with a 12-foot birdie putt on the fifth, then reached the fringe in two on the par-5 sixth for a simple birdie.

The 40-year-old South African appeared to be bothered on the eighth hole when he was about to direct a difficult shot into the wind and over the water, only to back off when he heard Couch take his shot out of turn. Els then went into a bunker and made bogey.

From the fairway bunker at No. 10, Els hit to 15 feet and made another birdie, and he was on his way. Then came his mistakes – the water short of the 13th green, a bunker left of the 14th green, and it was a game again.

Couch, whose only victory came in New Orleans in 2006, needs a victory get into the Masters for the first time. The other top five players on the leaderboard already are set for Augusta National.