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Monty Shares First Els Back in Contention

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VICTORIA, Australia -- Colin Montgomerie fired a 6-under 65 on Friday to share the lead with Peter Lonard midway through the Heineken Classic. Lonard, who shot a 68, matched Montgomerie at 9-under-par 133.
 
Trevor Immelman, who shared the first-round lead with Lonard and Steve Webster, carded a 2-under 69 and is tied for third place with Jarrod Lyle, who posted a 66 in the second round. The duo is knotted at 8-under-par 134 at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club.
 
First-round action was completed on Friday because a serious storm on Wednesday wreaked havoc on the tournament. The course was unplayable and traffic lights were down, making it difficult for the players to make it to the course in time. There was 2 1/2 hour delay, but Friday's play went on as scheduled and the tournament is caught up.
 
Montgomerie began his second round on the 10th tee and parred his first five holes. He broke into red figures with a birdie at the 15th, but climbed up the leaderboard with stellar play on the second nine.
 
The seven-time Order of Merit champion birdied his first three holes on the back side. Montgomerie's run appeared to continue at the fourth when his approach stopped three feet from the hole, but he missed the birdie putt.
 
Montgomerie rebounded with a birdie at the seventh, his second in as many rounds at the hole. He added another at No. 9, also a hole he birdied two rounds in a row, to grab his share of the second-round lead.
 
Montgomerie shared second place last week at the Caltex Masters and seems headed back in the right direction. Over the last couple of seasons, Montgomerie has battled back problems and personal problems, but the seven- time Ryder Cupper believes he has returned to the level of play he was at when he was a top-10 player in the world.
 
'I spent the last three years, every day, coming out on the range and having a different swing to accommodate one's physical problems. My swing changed by the day,' said Montgomerie. 'Since about the Ryder Cup it hasn't. I have been able to make the same move away from the ball every day. It has helped. I have gone back to the way I used to swing in the '90s.'
 
Lonard flew out of the gate on Friday with an eagle at the par-5 second hole. He knocked a two-iron to two feet at two, then birdied the seventh. Lonard bogeyed Nos. 8 and 10 to go 1-under for his round.
 
The Australian birdied the 147-yard 11th for the second day, then parred his next four. Lonard added a birdie putt at the 16th to get into position for his first European Tour victory.
 
'I didn't hit it great and hit it to like 20 feet a lot all day,' said Lonard, who shared fourth place last week at the PGA Tour's Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. 'On your day, you're going to hole a few of them. Today it just didn't happen. I pretty much got what I deserved. I played with what I had and still hit a lot of greens.'
 
Craig Parry (66), James Nitties (67) and Henrik Stenson (66) are tied for fifth place at 7-under-par 135.
 
Ernie Els' chance to become the sixth player in golf history to win the same event four years in a row improved considerably on Friday. He opened with a 1-over 72, but came back with a 7-under 64 in the second round.
 
Els is tied for eighth place with Nick O'Hern (67), Peter O'Malley (66), Brett Rumford (66) and David Smail (67) at 6-under-par 136.
 
Webster struggled to a 1-over-par 72 and is part of a group tied for 13th at minus-five.
 
The 36-hole cut fell at even-par 142 with several big-name players failing to advance to the weekend. Nick Faldo (144), Thomas Bjorn (145), two-time winner Michael Campbell (147) and Greg Norman (149) all missed the cut.
 
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