Nine tied at top in desert deadlock at sharp end as Scots exit early
WELCOME to the deadlock in the desert. A record nine players were sharing 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 started his round from the 10th with 10 straight pars before four birdies in the last eight holes gave the Ryder Cup star a second consecutive flawless 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.
“My caddie told me just to be patient on this nine and finally the putts started to drop. All in all, I’m reasonably happy, just feel going into the weekend I need to improve on the par-five scoring.”
Fellow Englishman Jordan Smith was among seven players just 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.
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 was two shots off the lead after a second round of 70, but former US Open 200 Renfield Street, Glasgow G2 3QB. email: email@example.com. Tel 0141 302 6590 Head of Sport Stewart Weir champion Graeme McDowell could only add a 75 to his opening 66 to finish one shot inside the cut on three-under.
On the Scottish front, Marc Warren (73), David Drysdale (71) and Richie Ramsay (74) all survived the cut with nothing to spare on the two-under 142 limit but will be hoping to mount an assault over the weekend.
Paul Lawrie, a two-time winner in Qatar, made a premature exit as did former Ryder Cup player Stephen Gallacher. They were among five Scots who departed early.