Facebook Twitter

Els still holds International lead

SHARE Els still holds International lead

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — Despite faltering down the stretch, Ernie Els rode the strength of four early birdies on Saturday to establish another tournament record and lengthen his lead in The International.

Els, who began the third round with a 6-point lead over Stuart Appleby, had 6 points Saturday for a total of 40, eclipsing the previous 54-hole record of 39 shared by Phil Mickelson and David Toms.

Els forged an 8-point lead over Mickelson and Greg Norman under the modified Stableford scoring system used in this event.

The scoring system awards a player with 5 points for an eagle, 2 points for a birdie, zero for a par, minus-1 for a bogey and minus-3 for a double bogey or worse.

For the first time in three days, weather did not intervene. Lightning caused suspensions of play on Thursday and Friday, forcing 72 players to conclude their first rounds Friday morning and 51 to finish their second rounds Saturday morning.

Norman had a 6-point round to get to 32, and Mickelson rallied into contention with seven birdies worth 14 points to match Norman's total.

Australia's Appleby and Spain's Sergio Garcia were at 30, and Edward Fryatt had 28.

Els, whose 34 points after two rounds also set a tournament mark, gave his closest pursuers little cause for optimism, birdieing Nos. 2, 3, 8 and 10 to raise his total to 42 points for a 10-point advantage over Norman.

His birdie on the difficult 10th hole came despite a drive into the rough. He hit a prudent iron to the left edge of the green to avoid the pond that fronts the putting surface, then drained a 25-foot putt.

Els, five times a runner-up this season, suffered his first bogey since Thursday on the par-5 14th hole when he drove into the rough, pitched out and flew the green with a short iron, failing to get up and down.

Els saved par after missing the green at No. 16. He drove into the gallery off the 18th fairway, reached the green with his iron shot but lipped out his second putt for another bogey.

Norman, playing in his first tournament since having hip surgery five weeks ago, had three birdies on the front side but also came undone at the 14th with a bogey following an errant drive.

He birdied the par-5 17th, leaving a 12-foot downhill putt for eagle just short that would have given him 5 points. Norman then bogeyed No. 18 after missing the green.