Nine tied at top in desert dead­lock at sharp end as Scots exit early

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FINAL SAY - PHIL CASEY

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: sport@the­herald.co.uk. 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.

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