Ernie Els displayed the qualities of a true champion as he played himself right back into the 132nd Open Golf Championship with a superb three under par 68 to move to four over par 146 at the halfway stage.
Despite the wind easing slightly from the opening day, the scores on the second morning once again reflected the tough test posed by Royal St George’s but the defending champion bounced back from an opening 78 as he fought his way back into the championship.
An early birdie on the second, greeted by applause from his playing partners as he recorded the first birdie from the group in two days of competition, was exactly the start Els would have wanted and that was followed by a two putt birdie on the fourth. Although the South African dropped a shot on the 11th he hit back with two more birdies at the 13th and 17th to complete the first sub-70 round of the second day.
“That was better, much better,” said Els. “I was happy to make a birdie early on the second. You need an early break if you are to make a score. I played well today, hit the ball nicely and kept the ball in play. Yesterday was very, very tough. With the wind blowing really hard and on a golf course like this if you start going the wrong way it is very hard to turn it around.”
Yesterday Els looked in danger of missing the halfway cut but now he can look forward to the weekend with confidence.
“If you are there at the weekend you give yourself half a chance and that’s what I really wanted to do. I really wanted to get myself back into the championship again. We had the worst of the weather and the wind is calming down now but there are some really tough pin positions and you have to play well to get under par. If you get to even par at the end of the week you are going to be close.”
Scotland’s Alastair Forsyth posted the early clubhouse target of 144, two over par, after a superb one under par 70 in the second round.
Forsyth arrived at Sandwich on the crest of a wave having twice finished runner-up in the past four weeks at the Diageo Championship at Gleneagles and the Smurfit European Open. He was also joint tenth in The Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond last week and currently occupies seventh place in the Volvo Order of Merit.
For 16 holes in the first round Forsyth was right up amongst the leaders but dropped to three over with a triple bogey on the 17th to card a 74. But he put that one hole behind him today as with two birdies and just the one bogey on the tenth on his way to a 70, saving par at the last from the greenside bunker.
Vijay Singh, an Honorary Member of The European Tour matched Forysth’s 70 to lie a shot further back on three over par, one ahead of Fredrik Jacobson who shot a frustrating 76. After playing a bogey free opening round, Jacobson continued in the same vein as he went another 11 holes without a dropped shot and was right up amongst the leaders but six dropped shots in succession saw the Swede slip back into the pack.