A BIRDIE at the last saw Ernie Els retain his place at the top of the leaderboard on day two of the BMW International Open in Munich.
The South African began the day with a one-stroke lead on nine under, only to see it overtaken by morning starters Danny Willett, the defending champion, and Austrian Bernd Wiesberger.
After five successive pars a birdie took him to ten under, but he immediately dropped back with a double-bogey six at the 441-yard next.
The 43-year-old, who will defend his Open title at Muirfield, regained that stroke at the ninth and added four more birdies coming home – with his four at the 568-yard last enough to take him ahead of the pack after a bogey at the 16th.
He finished the day 12 under and one ahead of England’s Matthew Baldwin and Frenchman Alexander Levy, who had rounds of 69 and 68 respectively. Willett’s 65 lifted him to ten under and well placed to retain his crown while home favourite Martin Kaymer, struggling with illness, is a shot further back.
Yorkshireman Willett’s opening 69 had left him six strokes off the pace but birdies at the 11th and 12th, having begun on the back nine, got the 25-year-old going – although he had to wait until the first before he picked up another shot.
That was one of five birdies coming home which saw him leap 46 places to the top of the leaderboard.
Kaymer failed to take advantage of an earlier start, improving his score by just one after a one-under 71.
Leading Scot was Callum Macaulay, who followed his first-round 69 with a 68 to sit on seven under, while Scott Jamieson was a stroke further back. Mark Warren and David Drysdale – both on four under – and Chris Doak and Gary Orr, on three under, finished above the projected cut mark, but Colin Montgomerie’s second successive 71 looked set to see him miss out.