Els storms to lead in Dubai

Last updated at 14:52 02 February 2008

Three-time champion Ernie Els stormed to the top of the leaderboard at the

Dubai Desert Classic this morning to open up a two-stroke lead over defending

champion Henrik Stenson and Peter Hedblom as Tiger Woods' third-round challenge


Woods began the day with a one stroke overnight lead but an out of sorts world

number one reached the turn one over par to slip back to seven under alongside

India's Shiv Kapur, Order of Merit leader Lee Westwood and Abu Dhabi champion

Martin Kaymer.


Els, who appeared downbeat following his second round 72, reached the turn in

two-under 33 before exploding down the back nine after picking up four strokes

in as many holes.

The South African world number five leapt to the top of the leaderboard

courtesy of an eagle three at the 549-yard 10th. He converted a three-foot putt

after nailing a three wood with his second shot.

Stenson, who birdied the final hole last year to edge out Els by a single

stroke, has finished second in his last two events.

He flew out of the blocks, reeled off three straight birdies to start his round

before a missed five-foot putt at the fifth halted the Dubai-based Swede's

charge as he reached the turn two under par.

Hedblom also eagled the 10th to march up the standings after picking up a

solitary stroke on the front nine.

While Els, Stenson and Hedblom found scoring easy, Woods slipped off the pace

after missing a five-foot birdie putt at the first. The American was initially

distracted by a spectator, who drew a piercing glare from the 13-time major


A hole later, Woods drove into the rough and after chipping through the green

with his third shot, he two putted to slip back to seven under before instantly

responding with a birdie at the third.

But Woods returned to one over at the sixth after hitting his tee shot into the

desert before rolling a four-foot par putt past the hole.

He was again in trouble two holes later after failing to find the fairway off

the tee, although he managed to get up and down after avoiding a tree and laying

up with his second shot.

Ernie Els

In-form Westwood, who has enjoyed 10 top-10 finishes in 11 outings, made his

move after picking up three strokes in five holes to start the back nine after

reaching the turn in level par.

Colin Montgomerie recovered from dropping four strokes over his opening nine

holes, holing three birdies on the back nine to sign for a 73 and slip back to

one over par overall.

After recording a sixth-place finish at last week's Qatar Masters, Montgomerie

moved up eight places to 57th on the current world rankings, the same place he

began 2008.

The eight-time Order of Merit winner is seeking a return to the top 50 to

secure a place at April's Masters, while he also need to hold onto a top-65 spot

to earn a berth at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona at the

end of this month.

Dubai-based Swede Stenson has finished runner-up in his last two outings in Abu

Dhabi and Qatar, where Adam Scott won after a bogey-free final round 61.

Stenson stormed out of the blocks and carded a hat-trick of birdies, which

included a chip in from 20 yards at the first, and after dropping his only shot

of the day at the fifth, added two further birdies on the way home.

"I was two behind Ernie last year and now I am one, I don't know if that's a

good omen. It's always hard to defend a title and I think this one will be

especially hard," said Stenson.

"Ernie shot seven under and he will be looking to walk away with it so I've

just got to keep up with him and put some pressure on him. Even though Ernie is

on 11 and I'm on 10, it's very bunched up behind us. If any of them get going

like Adam did last week we will have to go higher in the last match."

Woods, looking to claim a sixth victory in seven outings, held a slender one

stroke overnight lead but was disappointed after not being able to repeat the

fireworks which saw the 13-time major winner blast an ominous opening round 65

following his eight stroke victory at the Buick Invitational last week.

"I didn't hit the ball close enough on the greens," said Woods, who was

outscored by playing partner McGrane who sits 318 places lower in the world


"I have to go out and play a good round of golf tomorrow and play better than

I have the last two days and start making some putts. I need to hit the ball

better and make putts - that's not complicated."

In-form Westwood is riding a streak of 10 top-10 finishes in 11 outings, which

included victory at the British Masters, and made his move up the leaderboard

after picking up four shots on the back nine after missing several putts over

his opening nine holes.

"I'm pleased with the way I am playing and I'm in contention again," he said.

"All I can do is put myself in contention on Sunday and in the last couple of

groups within striking distance and I've been doing that so that's my main


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