Sat, 25 Jan 2003

Els takes charge at Caltex Masters with eight-under

Novan Iman Santosa, The Jakarta Post, Singapore

World No. 2 Ernie Els took charge of the US$900,000 Caltex Singapore Masters after improving his play by scoring a five- under-67 in the second round on Friday at the Laguna National Golf and Country Club's Masters Course for two-day aggregate score of 8-under 136 (69 67).

Defending champion Arjun Atwal of India followed closely, one shot behind Els, failing to keep his form by carding only a two- under for a total of 7-under 137 (67 70). Atwal shared the position with Simon Yates of Scotland, who made a three-under-69 on Friday and fellow countryman Jeev Milkha Singh.

Friday's second round started late as several golfers, including Els and Atwal, had to finish their first rounds. Thursday saw the tournament officials suspending the game twice due to bad weather before calling it a day.

Ernie and Atwal both had a five-under-67 after finishing their 15th holes before the game was stopped.

While Arjun could maintain his score, Els had to be satisfied with a three-under to finish the first round.

Starting the second round from the 10th hole, Ernie made four- under going out when he eagled at the eleventh and birdied in the 15th and 16th.

Returning to the club, the South African charged another two birdies at the second and fourth holes and another at the 6th.

Els said that he had chances at the last three holes but failed to take the opportunities, saying he had to increase his putting speed.

"I had an eight-footer on seven, and a nine-footer on eight, and about 11 feet on nine and missed all of them," he told reporters at the clubhouse.

"Hit some good putts but just didn't quite get the putts right. Hit a lot of fairways and greens, though, and gave myself a lot of opportunities.

"Just got to wait for the putter to get going," he added.

Atwal, who was on the same flight with Els, shot a three-under on the first nine, but had to succumb for a one-over returning to the clubhouse.

Atwal bogeyed the starting and 16th holes. He paid off the first bogey with three birdies in a row at holes 12, 13 and 14. The second bogey was compensated with another birdie at the 17th hole.

Returning home, however, Atwal failed to keep his form as he only managed with only a bogey at the par-4 third, wasting it with bogeys at the par-4 sixth and the par-4 eighth.

Starting from the first hole, Yates made a one-under, going out and improving his play to a two-under in the back nine. He carded a four-under-68 on Thursday.

"I am pretty happy with the way I am playing. There were some tough pin positions out there today and to shoot 69 was good," Yates said after his game.

Meanwhile, two golfers were disqualified from the tournament after officials found out that Filipino Danny Zarate and Chinese Liang Wenchong used non-conforming clubs. Zarate scored a five- over-149, while Liang had a three-over-147.

Zarate carded 73 and Liang shot 77 on Thursday.