Ernie Els extended his lead to three shots at the halfway stage of the Heineken Classic after a three under par 69 at Royal Melbourne Golf Club
The South African moved to 11 under par 133 to lead Australians Stephen Leaney, Peter O’Malley and Greg Norman and Welshman Mark Pilkington.
Els birdied the second but slipped up with bogeys on the third and sixth hole before re-establishing the lead with a run of four birdies in his next five holes. His only blemish on the way home came in the form of a bogey at the 17th hole. But he made up for that with a birdie at the last.
“I could have got a lot more out of the round,” Els said, “I had quite a few chances but you can’t always play the way you want to play.”
Norman shot a 67 to move to eight under par 136 having started his round in spectacular fashion with an eagle on his opening hole, the tenth on the composite course at Royal Melbourne. Another birdie followed on his eighth hole and three birdies and a bogey on his way home took him to five under par for the day.
“I felt very good, very relaxed out there,” he said, “It was just a very steady round, very consistent.”
Without a tournament victory since 1998, Norman said he was starting to regain his confidence. "I feel pretty good about my chances this week,” he said. “It doesn't really matter how long it's been since you've won a golf tournament. Jack Nicklaus went a couple of years without winning a golf event. Everybody goes through those times."
Pilkington picked up five birdies and three bogeys in an up and down round but maintained his overnight position of second place with a round of 70.
He said: "I'd heard a lot of good things about the course before and that obviously puts you in a good frame of mind. I haven't been let down. It's a fantastic course. It raises your game."
O’Malley, winner of the Compass Group English Open on The 2001 European Tour International Schedule, also finished three shots adrift of Els. O’Malley made an excellent start with four birdies in his first six holes before parring the remaining twelve holes to put himself in contention for the weekend.
Stephen Leaney, playing with O’Malley, shot the best round of the afternoon with a 66, birdies on the 16th and 17th holes lifting him into a share of second place.
His round, however, was eclipsed by New Zealander Richard Lee, who broke the course record with a sensational 62. Lee shot eight birdies and an eagle in a sublime display to move within four shots of the lead in sixth place.
"I'm really amazed at what I have done. I can't believe it," he said, bettering the previous mark by Roger Mackay and Ian Baker-Finch by one stroke at the course that hosted the 1998 Presidents Cup.