Els hangs on to lead as play suspended


Arnold Palmer Invitational

ORLANDO, Fla. – Ernie Els wasn’t making it easy for himself at Bay Hill on Sunday.

Els had a five-shot lead with six holes to play and was cruising toward his second straight victory until hitting into the water for a double bogey on the 13th and into the sand for a bogey on the next hole.

He still had a two-shot lead over Kevin Na when the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational was suspended by thunderstorms, which soaked the golf course for three hours.

The round is to resume Monday morning.

Els was at 11-under par and on the 15th hole. Na was at 9 under and on the front of the 15th green in two, 80 feet from the hole. The group another shot back included Ben Curtis and Chris Couch, who were playing with Els; and Retief Goosen, who was on the 18th tee.

Els went two years without winning, and was poised to only wait two weeks this time. He ended the longest drought of his career at Doral with a four-shot victory, and is trying to become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2001 to win twice on the Florida swing.

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He started the final round with a one-shot lead and quickly seized control with a 12-foot birdie putt on the fifth, then reached the fringe in two on the par-5 sixth for a simple birdie.

The 40-year-old South African appeared to be bothered on the previous hole when he was about to hit a difficult shot into the wind and over the water, only to back off when he heard Couch hit out of turn. Els then went into a bunker and made bogey, and he drove into the right rough on No. 9 and had to play short of the green.

Couch hit his approach into 4 feet, and it looked as though they would make the turn in a tie for the lead. Els, however, pitched in from 53 yards short of the green for an unlikely birdie that put him at 12 under and allowed him to keep his two-shot lead.

From the fairway bunker at No. 10, Els hit to 15 feet and made another birdie, and he was on his way. Then came his mistakes – the water short of the 13th green, a bunker left of the 14th green, and it was a game again.

Couch, whose only victory came in New Orleans in 2006, needs a victory get into the Masters for the first time. The other top five players on the leaderboard already are set for Augusta National.

Only one player had managed to break 70 in the final round – D.A. Points, who had a 69 and was tied for 17th.