Four-time major winner Ernie Els rolled back the years to put himself in contention for a first victory since 2013 in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
Els carded a second round of 65 at Emirates Golf Club, where he won his first European Tour title 25 years ago, to finish alongside fellow former champion Alvaro Quiros on 11 under par, a shot off the halfway lead shared by world number five Bryson DeChambeau and Australia’s Lucas Herbert.
DeChambeau recorded seven birdies and an eagle in his second consecutive 66, while Herbert also had seven birdies and an eagle in a superb, bogey-free 63
Els is just nine months away from being eligible for the Champions Tour and is currently ranked 527th in the world, but the 49-year-old is a three-time winner of the event and amazingly never finished worse than eighth in his first 11 appearances.
“I like this place, as you know. I’ve had some really great times here,” Els said after a round containing an eagle, seven birdies and two bogeys.
“I’m swinging well, my body feels well. Just, you know, going on the memory bank, I guess.
“Playing with Colin (Montgomerie) and Jose (Maria Olazabal) was also fun. We’ve done a lot in the game, and we had a good couple of chats, and I found my form. You’ve got to love it.
“We try and play the game to win tournaments and do as good as you can. I’ve had a good time. I’ve been a professional for a very long time and I’ve got one more year before I’m 50. I’m only 50 in October so I’ll try and have a good year this year and just try and enjoy it.
“I think it might play a little tougher over the weekend and in the afternoons if the wind comes. But I think still just keep the foot on the pedal, try and make some birdies. I think 20 under is probably where you need to be or maybe even more. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”
In contrast to Els, DeChambeau is seeking a fourth win in his last nine events, despite insisting he was far from his best for the second day running.
“I thought yesterday getting it around not making a bogey was awesome, but today even more impressive with three bogeys on the card, still shooting six under,” the American Ryder Cup player said.
“I was happy about that. Unfortunately, again, just didn’t have the right sensations and preparation over shots.
“I just felt uncomfortable, unfortunately, on a lot of them, and consequently just am not ball-striking my best. But hey, shoot, I’m not complaining one bit. There’s no complaining here for sure, so I’m happy.”
Herbert’s 63 was the lowest round of the week so far and was kickstarted by an eagle and two birdies in his first three holes, with five more birdies followed by a lengthy par-saving putt on the ninth, his final hole, after pulling his tee shot into the water.
“I don’t expect to shoot another two 63s out there,” the 23-year-old said. “I think today was some of the really good golf that I can play and it’s going to be hard to replicate that.
“But if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, I won’t be doing too much wrong. Keep the bogeys off the card, try and pick off those par fives and I don’t think we’ll be too far away from it Sunday afternoon.”
Defending champion Haotong Li and England’s Matt Wallace and Callum Shinkwin are two shots off the lead on 12 under, with overnight leader Matt Fitzpatrick a stroke further back following a 70.
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