New record as nine players share the lead in Qatar

Ernie Els is relishing the weekend and putting in a challenge. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Ernie Els is relishing the weekend and putting in a challenge. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

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A record nine players share the lead heading into the third round of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, with the entire field separated by just six shots.

Overnight leader Bradley Dredge could only add a 72 to his opening 64 and was joined on eight under par by Andy Sullivan, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Nacho Elvira, Jorge Campillo, Thomas Aiken, Jaco van Zyl, Wang Jeunghun and 
Mikko Korhonen.

The previous record for the most players tied for the halfway lead on the European Tour was eight in the Scandinavian Masters in 1997.

Sullivan began his round from the 10th with 10 straight pars before four birdies in the last eight holes gave him a 
second consecutive 68.

“It was a frustrating start to the day,” Sullivan said. “I thought my first nine was the one you could really get going on and platform into the back nine, but it didn’t really happen. I just did not convert the putts but my caddie told me just to be patient on this nine and finally the putts started to drop. ”

Fellow Englishman Jordan Smith was among seven players a shot off the lead after continuing an impressive start to his debut season with five birdies and an eagle in his 66, the joint-lowest score of the day.

“I’m over the moon,” the 24-year-old said. “It was difficult with the wind really picking up in the afternoon and I hit some awesome iron shots out there. Really happy with the way I played.”

“I came in with a lot of confidence after a good couple of weeks getting the hang of things. I like to say I’m pretty good in the wind, playing a lot of links course as an amateur gets you used to that.”

Smith finished third in the South African Open earlier this month after playing in the last group in the final round with Rory McIlroy and eventual winner Graeme Storm.

The former Walker Cup player added: “I got some kind words from Rory and Graeme afterwards, which was nice, and I just sort of realised myself I can go toe-to-toe with them and have the sort of game to challenge.”

Four-time major winner Ernie Els, 47, was two shots off the lead after a second round of 70, but former US Open champion Graeme McDowell could only add a 75 to his opening 66 to finish one shot inside the cut on three under.

“It feels good,” Els said. “I felt really comfortable tee to green. I felt the greens were a little slower today and I missed a lot of makeable birdie putts but I’m not complaining. I’m playing nicely and looking forward to the weekend.”

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