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09 Feb 2008 14:36
Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin grabbed a one-shot lead at a blustery Indian Masters on Saturday, with Ernie Els lurking dangerously four behind after posting the best score of the day.
Jacquelin, who last tasted a European Tour victory at the BMW Asian Open in Shanghai last April, mixed an eagle and a birdie with three bogeys for an even par 72 on a day that saw the lead see-saw.
He enters the final push on Sunday one ahead of second-round leader Damien McGrane, who struggled to recapture his early form with five bogeys in his 75.
The Irishman sits at five-under par for the tournament alongside countryman Graeme McDowell (73) and Spain’s Jose Manuel Lara (71).
Local hopes remain alive with former US PGA Tour member Arjun Atwal two off the pace and Kolkata-based SSP Chowrasia on the same score.
But it was Els who dealt with the gusty conditions better than anyone as the world number four started to find his groove.
He has improved each day as he gets a feel for the quirks of the tough Lodhi course, having recovered from a horror nine on the 18th hole in his opening round.
The South African had been aiming to make six-under par Saturday, but three bogeys mixed with six birdies derailed the plan.
Nevertheless, his 69 proved to be an excellent score that no one else could match.
While Els thrived, former Ryder Cup stalwart Darren Clarke, who has been suffering a bout of the infamous “Delhi belly”, went to pieces on the back nine, dropping eight shots to put himself out of contention.
Nine-time European Tour winner Thomas Bjorn shot a 74 to sit alongside Els.
Aside from the Indian contingent, the challenge from Asian Tour players fizzled with Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng nine over after a 78 and his compatriot, Prom Meesawat, five over following a 76.—AFP
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