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Golf: Resurgent Els storms in joint lead at Singapore Open

by Martin Parry*

A resurgent Ernie Els stormed into contention with a hard-fought 70 for a share of the lead alongside England's Simon Dyson on another weather-disrupted day at the Singapore Open yesterday.
It was a long slog for the big South African who had to come out at daybreak to finish four holes from his first round, after being forced off the fairways by bad light on Thursday.
He wasted no time in sinking two birdies to take the outright first round lead before teeing off again almost immediately for round two, where he mixed three birdies and two bogeys to be on six-under-par 136 going into the weekend.
Els shares the lead with Dyson, who stroked a majestic four-under-par 67.
Both players completed their rounds shortly before play was halted at 2.38pm with lightning flashing. Torrential rain followed with the players returning for barely an hour at the end of the day.
Seventy-eight players have yet to finish their rounds.
Chasing hot on the heels of Els and Dyson two adrift after 18 holes were Northern Ireland's teenage sensation Rory McIlroy, the youngest player to secure at European Tour card, and Thailand's Chapchai Nirat.
Overnight leader Lam Chih Bing of Singapore was also on four-under for the tournament but only managed to complete five holes.
Ireland's three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington was even par for his round after six holes to lag seven behind while world number three Phil Mickelson was two over for the tournament after seven holes.
Two-time champion Adam Scott, who beat Els in a play-off here in 2006, floundered 11 behind the leaders after six holes.
"I started early this morning and had two birdies coming in and I played pretty decent in the afternoon but couldn't quite get scoring," said Els.
"But overall I'm pretty satisfied. I hit ball nice, could have made a few more putts but it's fine and I feel quite comfortable."
Els switched his base from Wentworth in England to West Palm Beach in Florida this year, changed his caddie and personal trainer and replaced David Leadbetter with Butch Harmon as his coach.
Until last weekend the upheaval had yet to pay dividends with seven missed cuts but he won the King Hassan II Trophy in Morocco on Sunday and has brought his form to Singapore.
"It would be great to win but I'm still working on my game," he said.
"My year has not been great but I'm still trying to get better and get my game back. I feel comfortable, had a win last week which helps the confidence, and I just want to keep grinding away and see what happens Sunday."
European Tour star Dyson put together a decent bogey-free round and said he was playing some of his best golf ever.
"I was very solid. I hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens and holed some good putts," he said.
"Whenever you play a round and don't hit a bogey it is very satisfying. I feel like I'm playing some of the best golf I've ever played but the course is so tough."
Chapchai, who has struggled to make his mark in Europe this year with the cold weather not to his liking, is the highest placed Asian Tour regular and said he was feeling good.
"I hit my driver and three woods really well today," he said.
"I'm feeling good about myself. I played quite a bit in Europe this year but I struggled in the cold and wind. However, I took that as a learning experience and will certainly head there again next season."