Ernie Els showed he was fallible as a rare bogey on the final hole of the magnificent Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club left him in a four-way tie of the lead alongside Alastair Forsyth Mikko Ilonen and David Lynn on ten under par 134 at the halfway stage of the Dubai Desert Classic.
Els appeared to be cruising as he picked up five birdies to move to the head of proceedings but made his first bogey of the week when his second shot to the 547 yard par five final hole found the water short of the green.
“I took a bit of a chance on the 18th and it didn’t work out,” said Els. “The only bad shot I hit on the back nine was on the 18th and I didn’t quite get the four iron. But I hit the ball really nicely, almost better than yesterday, but it didn’t quite go my way scoring-wise.”
Els will now go out in the third round with Forsyth, who shot a three under 69 to join the leaders on ten under par. Twelve months ago, after winning in Malaysia, Els and Forsyth played the first two rounds together, with Els going on to victory.
When asked if he would find the experience of playing with the World Number Two intimidating or inspiring, Forsyth replied: “A bit of both. If I can get off to a good start then there shouldn’t be a problem. We will have a good crowd following us.”
Forsyth’s round started scrappily as he single putted five of the first eight holes. But he holed a good 30 foot putt on the ninth for a birdie and followed that with a birdie on the tenth to get his round moving. A aggressive tee shot on the 13th cost him his only bogey but he got the score back to ten under par with a birdie on the 16th.
“Today, I felt a few holes were sloppy,” he said. “I missed a lot of fairways but I was pleased with the way I scrambled the front nine. Now I am looking forward to the weekend. There’s a lot to play for and it is well bunched.”
Ilonen’s previous experience of Dubai was not a happy one as he suffered food poisoning and finished up in hospital for the night. His return is much more enjoyable as he picked up six birdies before also dropping a shot on the last after finding the water.
Lynn’s finish was by far the most impressive as he followed a birdie on the 17th with an eagle on the 18th when he holed from just off the edge of the green. That third eagle of the week took him into a share of the lead.
“I’m hitting it well. just telling myself to get on with it and certainly scoring well.” Said Lynn. “It’s great at the start of the year to get into contention.”
Local favourite and the 2001 champion Thomas Björn and Ian Woosnam lie a further shot back on nine under par, with both players matching each other shot for shot in rounds of 66.
“It was a bit of an up and down day but when I missed the green I managed to get up and down,” said Woosnam, who lost a play-off to Richard Green for the title in 1997.
Björn has come to Dubai with a new relaxed attitude after reaching a crossroads in Australia. A second round of 66 helped him get back to his best.