Ernie Els one shot behind the leader at halfway stage of Macau Open

The Big Easy shoots a terrific 65 in the second round to put the pressure on clubhouse leader Siddikur of Bangladesh

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 October, 2013, 9:36pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 October, 2013, 9:43am

A missed two-foot putt at the last hole cost two-time British Open champion Ernie Els a share of the lead at the halfway stage of the Venetian Macau Open on Friday.

But while disappointed, the South African was more than happy with the way he came to grips with "one of the most unique courses in the world".

His disappointment was portrayed when he hit the practice green soon after a stunning second round of six-under-par 65, lining up short putts, the only part of his game which he felt was missing as he bids to win the US$800,000 Asian Tour tournament on his first appearance.

That last miss stings a little bit, otherwise it would have been perfect, to be seven-under and in the last group going into the weekend
Ernie Els

"I would have taken this position if on Wednesday evening someone had offered it to me," said Els. "But that last miss stings a little bit, otherwise it would have been perfect, to be seven-under and in the last group going into the weekend."

That slot is held solely by Bangladeshi Siddikur, who added a 66 to his opening round of 69 to aggregate seven-under-par 135 to take a one-shot lead over Els, South Korean Baek Seuk-hyun, Elmer Salvador of the Philippines and Ben Campbell from New Zealand.

Siddikur, who grabbed the clubhouse lead midway through the afternoon, had hoped he would get the opportunity to play alongside Els. But the missed birdie at the 18th by Els killed of that chance with Siddikur being joined by Baek and Salvador.

Els, however, said he would be keeping a close eye on the Bangladeshi trailblazer, the first man from the cricket-mad country to win an Asian Tour event, in 2010.

While the rest of his countryman followed every word and deed of such illustrious cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar or Brian Lara, Siddikur grew up in Dhaka as a caddy following the exploits of Els, a four-time major winner.

"Ernie is my idol. I have been waiting a long time to play with him and this week I have the chance," said the 29-year-old Siddikur, who has been playing well without quite reaching the pinnacle with five top-10 finishes all he has to boast about to his friend back home.

"But at least I'm more recognised back in Dhaka. People know me everywhere I go with golf getting more popular," said the country's number one. A win on Sunday would raise his profile even more, especially if it comes over Els.

Els said: "I don't know much about him [Siddikur], I must find out especially now that I'm an ambassador for the Asian Tour. Hopefully we will see him over the weekend."

Siddikur will just be one flight behind his idol on Saturday as the tournament enters the business end at the Macau Country and Golf Club. With two competent rounds, the diminutive Bangladeshi is looking good to be in the final reckoning on Sunday … Els too is certain to be around.

After looking at one stage as if he would struggle to make the cut, going four-over par after the first seven holes in his opening round, the Big Easy moved smoothly up a gear as he made his charge on Friday rolling in nine birdies offset slightly by three bogeys.

"The wind died down and it was a pleasure being out there. I was hitting different clubs and seeing the course in a different way. It was fun," Els said. "I think I've found my lines off the tees and the greens as well. But I was not too comfortable with the short putts, and that's why I missed the last one [for birdie].

"I was looking at the board and it would have been perfect if I could have been seven under to be in the last group. But it's fine. I will settle for this," said Els before heading to the practice green to iron out that little kink in his game.

Indian's Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa missed the cut but two-time champion Zhang Lianwei kept his proud record of having made the cut at every Macau Open he has played in with a total of one-over 143.