There was good and bad news for fans and backers of Ernie Els following the second round of the Qatar Masters in Doha yesterday.
The good was that Els, in danger of missing the cut on the European tour for the first time since 1999 after an opening 73, moved up from 81st to joint 24th with a 69. The bad was that he is still seven strokes off the lead.
The Australian left-hander Richard Green came in late in the day with a 68, and on nine under par is one in front of Swedes Pierre Fulke and Robert Karlsson heading into the last 36 holes.
Els reckons he now needs a "quality weekend" to make it two wins in a row following his success in the Dubai Desert Classic last Sunday. But at least the South African was back on better terms with the Belgian sports psychologist Jos Vanstiphout, with whom he had had heated words on the driving range before his first round.
"It was crazy - I guess we can put it down to a misunderstanding," said Els, the only player in the world's top 50 taking part in the event and believed to have received around £200,000 for agreeing to play and give a clinic.
"I was not happy. He is supposed to give me encouragement, not what he gave me. It's supposed to be 10 minutes of good stuff before I play, but that was 12 minutes of the most ridiculous stuff I've ever thought of. I don't know what went through his head."
A much calmer Els was threatening to get on the leaderboard when he covered the first 10 holes of his second round in four under. But the remaining eight were played in one over, a hooked drive into the desert waste on the sixth, his 15th, leading to a bogey.
Green, 52nd in the world with two more weeks to go before the top 50 qualify for next month's US Masters, came home in 32 to take over at the top from Fulke, who needed two birdies in his last three holes to add a 70 to his initial 66. Karlsson sank a bunker shot and chipped in for a joint best-of-the-day 67, but Welshman David Park, looking to at least match that, instead bogeyed two of the last three to slip back to six under and joint fifth with a 70.
Paul McGinley had a second successive 71 for two under and Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam another 72 to remain level par, but defending champion Joakim Haeggman missed the cut by one following a 75.
* Seve Ballesteros has pulled out of the Masters at Augusta in four weeks' time with a right knee problem.
Qatar Masters (Doha) Leading second round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 135 R Green (Aus) 67 68. 136 P Fulke (Swe) 66 70; R Karlsson (Swe) 69 67. 137 T Wiratchant (Thai) 69 68. 138 G Havret (Fr) 71 67; R Jacquelin (Fr) 70 68; D Park 68 70. 139 R Gonzalez (Arg) 69 70; A Atwal (India) 70 69; N Fasth (Swe) 68 71. 140 B Lane 71 69; M Fraser (Aus) 69 71; H Stenson (Swe) 67 73; M Lafeber (Neth) 69 71; A Kang (US) 68 72. 141 C Hanell (Swe) 71 70; N Sato (Japan) 69 72; N Dougherty 73 68; M Tunnicliff 73 68; R Coles 71 70; P Broadhurst 73 68; M A Martin (Sp) 70 71; C Devers (US) 70 71. 142 S Webster 73 69; J Kingston (SA) 70 72; E Els (SA) 73 69; T Jaidee (Thai) 71 71; A Hansen (Den) 71 71; S Hansen (Den) 70 72; P McGinley 71 71; G Storm 71 71.Reuse content