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Friday, 19 March 2010
Alfred Dunhill Championships - Round Two  (Getty Images)
Alfred Dunhill Championships - Round Two (Getty Images)

Ernie Els made his considerable presence felt with a second round 67 at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.

Needing to repeat his 2005 victory at Leopard Creek to extend a remarkable record of at least one win every year since 1990, Els shared the early clubhouse lead with in-form Italian Edoardo Molinari.

The two playing partners had 12 birdies between them - and eight of those were from Els, who also dropped three strokes.

They stood nine under par at halfway, but Els' fellow South African Ulrich Van den Berg, leader by one after his opening eight under 64, was among the later starters.

Els has had a birdie each day on the 541 yard 18th, the hole where  he crashed to a closing triple bogey eight when two in front two years ago.

His four there helped him to turn in a two under 35 and he then picked up further shots on the second, third and fifth.

The former Open Championship and US Open Championship winner did bogey the short seventh for the second day running, but a superb approach to six feet on the 475 yard ninth enabled him to finish on a high note.

Molinari is trying for his fifth victory in seven tournaments and he added a 69 to his first round 66.

The 28 year old's best win came two weeks ago when he teamed up with his brother Francesco to give Italy their first-ever Omega Mission Hills World Cup success.

They are now 40th and 59th in the Official Golf World Rankings, with Edoardo the lower-ranked of the two and looking to climb into the top 50 in the next two weeks so that he too will play in the Masters Tournament at Augusta in April.

Not that it would be his debut - he was there three years ago as the US Amateur champion, but shot 80-77 and missed the cut by nine shots.

Molinari turned professional later the same season, but after struggling to establish himself on The European Tour his recent form has been a revelation.

He won three times in topping The Challenge Tour and then beat last year's European Number One Robert Karlsson in a play-off for the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan.

France's Michael Lorenzo-Vera, meanwhile, moved alongside Van den Berg by covering the first 14 holes in a brilliant seven under with an eagle and five birdies.

Defending champion Richard Sterne moved back into contention with a 66 for six under, while England's Challenge Tour graduate Richard McEvoy was on the same mark with one to play.

Els and Molinari were knocked off top spot not by Van den Berg, but by Swede Pelle Edberg, who a week after failing to earn a European Tour card at Qualifying School in Spain was giving one of the best performances of his career.

Resuming on seven under Edberg picked up further birdies at the 14th, 18th and first and on ten under led by one from not only Els and Molinari, but also Van den Berg and James Kingston, who was five under for the day after eight.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1MARTIN BENAVIDES, PabloESP18-17
2SCHWARTZEL, CharlRSA18-16
3HANSEN, AndersDEN18-14
T4MAYBIN, GarethNIR18-12
T4STERNE, RichardRSA18-12
T4ROCK, RobertENG18-12
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