/ 14 November 2008

Els overhauls local hero to lead Singapore Open

Ernie Els overhauled local favourite Lam Chih Bing with two birdies in three holes to snatch the lead at the $5-million Singapore Open on Friday.

Els finished up the last four holes of his first round on Friday morning after a storm-interrupted opening day and birdied the 16th and 18th holes to sit five under par on 66.

”I’m pleased with that,” Els told reporters. ”I putted nicely and hit the ball okay. It’s not an easy course. If you miss shots, you’ll pay the price. I felt comfortable with the swing and I’m pretty pleased with the start.”

Els was on the 15th green when play was stopped on Thursday night after a day pockmarked by rain and thunderstorms.

He missed the putt when he resumed on Friday but then made up for it with a splendid final three holes.

”I made birdie on 16 and had a good one on 18 after laying up. I have shaved a lot of them. I’m not complaining and it was a nice round,” he said as the island of Sentosa bathed in morning sunshine.

The city-state’s own Lam had made the best of Thursday’s challenging conditions at the Serapong Course to lead the field with a four-under-par 67 overnight.

”My main goal right now is still to piece together four solid rounds. Obviously I want to do well this week,” he smiled to reporters.

”I think being in this position, it’s important not to get ahead of myself and just still go out and play three more solid rounds.”

World number three Phil Mickelson tees off his second round later on Friday after a two-over 73. Ireland’s Padraig Harrington resumes at one over after an opening-day 72.

The Singapore Open is Asia’s richest national open, with $792 500 going to the winner.

Organisers have been forced to come up with contingency plans for potential weather delays and representatives from the tournament, sponsors Barclays and the Asian Tour have met to discuss the possibility of a potential spillover into next week.

”A firm decision has been taken that if the third round is started, the … Open will definitely go to 72 holes, even if that means a Monday finish,” they said in a statement.

Should weather forecasts suggest weekend play will be disrupted by lightning, organisers would review the situation and possibly reduce the tournament to 54 holes ”in the interest of player and spectator safety”. – Reuters