Ernie Els Loses Ground, But Not Lead at Bay Hill

Ernie Els Loses Ground, But Not Lead at Bay Hill 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.

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.

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.

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