Ernie Els flexed his muscles yesterday to race clear in the Johnnie Walker Classic as world number one Tiger Woods continued to toil in the Phuket sunshine. While defending champion Els blazed to a bogey-free seven-under-par 65 around the Blue Canyon Country Club layout, Woods only managed an uninspired 71. With a 36-hole total of 143, Woods trails Els by 11 strokes. The American-Thai is also one behind China's Zhang Lianwei, his playing partner for the opening two rounds. Zhang, who outscored his playing partner on day one, again emerged with credit from his 'Tiger ordeal'. The highlight of his even-par 72 was an eagle at the 561-yard ninth where a spanking drive was followed by a majestic two-wood approach and an authoritative 15-foot holed putt. Although he was unable to pick up any shots on the back nine, Zhang's performance impressed Woods, who said he was not surprised that such a competent golfer had come out of China. 'Anybody can play this game. I don't care where they're from,' said Woods. 'All of us struggled a little and found it hard to get anything going, but you can tell that he's [Zhang] a fighter. He really gutted it out.' For his part, Zhang was not satisfied. 'I didn't play well and it's just luck that my score for two rounds was better than Tiger,' said the Chinese number one. Going into this morning's penultimate round, Germany's Alexander Cejka is second on 135 with World Cup winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland a further shot back in third. Eight of the 24 Asian starters survived the cut which came at 147, three over par. Heading the Asian challenge is Thai Prayad Marksaeng on 139, with Indian Arjun Atwal on 141 and Zhang. Among those who missed out were Hong Kong's Dominique Boulet (151) and China's Cheng Jun (155).