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Friday, 19 July 2002
European Tour Member Ernie Els edged closer to finally laying his hands on the Claret Jug when he moved into the lead in the second round of the 131st Open Golf Championship at Muirfield.

The 32 year old South African, second at St Andrews in 2000 and third last year at Royal Lytham and St Annes carded a second round 66 for a six under par total of 136.

Starting the day at one under par, Els set the tournament alight with a stunning outward half of seven under par 29, only one shot more than the record nine hole score of 28 in Open Championship history, carded by Denis Durnian at Royal Birkdale in 1983.

The two time US Open Champion made his intentions clear right from the off with three birdies in a row from the first. He followed that with further gains at the fifth, sixth, eighth and ninth, the highlight being a monster 50 foot putt from off the front of the green at the sixth.

However, the Big Easy could not keep up the ferocious pace turning for home and a couple of errors brought sighs of relief from the chasing pack. An approach shot through the back of the green at the 11th led to a bogey five and two shots in a treacherous greenside bunker at the 191 yard 13th yielded a bogey four.

The South African pulled his approach shot wide of the green at the 14th too but showed great courage to pitch out from the clinging rough to four feet before holing out to save par.

Another pulled drive at the 17th cost Els the chance of a birdie at the 546 yard 17th and when he drove into the bunker on the 18th, a par four looked unlikely. But Els rose to the occasion magnificently, playing out of the trap down the fairway before firing his third shot to within three feet of the pin and holing out for a closing par four.

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