Els fights back to trail Green in Qatar Masters
BY iseekgolf.com | European PGA Tour | 2005 Qatar Masters | Round Two | 12 Mar 2005
World number three Ernie Els fought back with a three-under-par 69 in the Qatar Masters on Friday but trails halfway leader Richard Green of Australia by seven shots heading into the weekend.
After opening with a sluggish 73, the big South African quelled fears of an early exit from the US$1.5 million event jointly sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours with a battling round that included five birdies at Doha Golf Club.
Green shot a sparkling 68 to finish atop the leaderboard on nine-under-par 135, one ahead of Swedish duo Pierre Fulke, the overnight leader who returned a 70 and Robert Karlsson who fired a bogey-free 67.
For a man who dislikes windy conditions and had booked an early flight home in anticipation of missing the cut, Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant was certainly flying high with a 68 for fourth place, two behind the leader.
India’s Arjun Atwal, Asia’s number one in 2003, moved into prime position with a 69 that left him four off the pace despite playing with a borrowed driver and a brand new putter after his two favourite clubs went missing before the start of his round.
All eyes were on Els who was in danger of missing his first cut in six years on the European Tour after his poor start. But the “Big Easy” showed his class in tough windy conditions yet again at the impressive Doha course.
Fresh from an unprecedented third victory in Dubai on Sunday, Els is still eyeing back-to-back wins but conceded he has yet to tame this week’s course. "I can’t really put my finger on it here. A lot of times, you hit what you think is a good shot and it finishes no where. I hit a lot of good shots but the ball scatters away from the hole. At least I played better," said Els.
The three-time Major winner is confident of reeling in the leaders. “I can’t see the guys going very low on this course. I need a really quality weekend and that’s what I’m looking forward to. At least I’m here for the weekend!” said Els.
The unorthodox swinging Thaworn struggled on his front nine and did not hit a single fairway, turning in 37. But the Thai enjoyed a blazing finish, shooting five birdies on his inward journey.
“It was too windy early on but on the back nine, the wind died down and I started hitting more fairways. I had a really nice finish with five birdies. Even after a 69 on Thursday, I thought it’ll be tough to make the cut. I’ll be changing my flight home to Sunday now!” said Thaworn.
“I’m using a Scottish caddie who used to work at the club previously and he is helping with the yardages and judging the wind. We’ve worked well so far and I’m looking for a good finish,” added the reigning Taiwan Open champion.
Atwal had a startling start to his day. At the range for his warm-up, he realised his driver and putter were missing from his bag and he hurriedly borrowed a different make driver from compatriot Amandeep Johl and bought a similar putter from the club’s pro-shop before going on to shoot a 69.
“It’s strange huh? It’s never happened to me before. We went to the range and we didn’t check our clubs. We started warming up and I said ’where’s the driver and my caddie said there isn’t a driver’. So I borrowed Amandeep’s but I didn’t like it at all as the shaft was a bit weak for me. I started with a snap hook and I hooked it every time I hit it. I used my three wood most of the day,” said Atwal, who has won two European Tour-sanctioned events in his career.
“If I get a decent driver, I have a chance. I’m going to ask a few guys around if they have the same type or a stronger shaft,” added the Indian star, who also plays on the US PGA Tour.
The left-handed Green is gunning for a Gulf double, having won his lone European Tour victory at the 1997 Dubai Desert Classic. The 34-year-old Aussie is however wary of a potential weekend charge from Els.
“You can never write him off. He’s number three in the world and renowned for shooting low scores. I wouldn’t mind betting he puts together a six under round or something like that. It would be awesome (to complete a Gulf double) but there is a long way to go,” said Green, who enjoyed his best year in Europe last season by finishing 17th on the money list.
Asian Tour number one Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand carded a second straight 71 and will start the third round tied with his playing partner for two rounds, Els. He had a strong outward nine, turning in 33 with four birdies against a dropped shot but was blown off course on the inward journey with three bogeys against a birdie on his last hole, the par five ninth.
“The wind was changing a lot and I misjudged some shots coming in. But I was happy with my overall play. I only missed two fairways and four greens in these tough conditions and there are two rounds to go to catch up,” said the 58th ranked Thongchai, who is looking to break into the top-50 to secure a start in the US Masters in April.
The cut was set at 145, with 75 players qualifying for the weekend rounds. Last year’s champion Joakim Haeggman of Sweden missed the mark by one stroke.
Source – Asian Tour