Saturday, 10 December 2005

Reuters - Ernie Els eagled the 18th hole to close the gap on leader Ulrich van den Berg to just two strokes after the third round of the dunhill championship. While Van den Berg tore around the par 72 course at Leopard Creek Country Club in 65 strokes to move to 12 under par for the tournament, Els only made a move on the last nine holes and his eagle on the last hole lifted him into second place on 10 under. 


The World Number Five is playing his second tournament since knee surgery at the end of July and was delighted to be in contention for the joint-sanctioned European Tour and South African Sunshine Tour event after a disappointing ninth place in the Nedbank Challenge last weekend.


"After last week's semi-disaster, it would be a dream comeback to win my second tournament after five months off," said Els. "I've been striking the ball quite well, but my putter was terrible last week. So I've been feeling my way back in, trying all sorts of styles to try and get better feel. I hit some good putts over the last five holes from 10 feet in and those are the scoring putts."


Standing in the way of Els's third Dunhill Championship triumph is the 30 year old South African Van den Berg, who has four Sunshine Tour titles to his name, including two in the last 12 months.


Van den Berg had one dropped shot on his card, at the par three fifth hole, but picked up six birdies and an eagle at the sixth.


"I've been playing very nicely and I was very positive coming into the tournament," said Van den Berg told. "I have to try to block out the magnitude of what the win would mean to me and I can't worry about Ernie Els or Charl Schwartzel or look at scoreboards."


Schwartzel, last year's dunhill championship winner, struggled with the front nine of his front nine, but picked up three successive birdies from the 13th to 15th to finish on nine under par and in a share of third place with fellow South African Louis Oosthuizen (71).


Tournament Officials have decided to bring the tee times for Sunday's final round forward by two hours and start off two tees as lightning and heavy rain are forecast for Sunday afternoon.

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