Els back in contention as Atwal leads Asian hopes on borrowed driver World number three Ernie Els fought back with a three-under-par 69 in the Qatar Masters yesterday but trails halfway leader Richard Green of Australia by seven shots heading into the weekend. After opening with a sluggish 73, the big South African quelled fears of an early exit from the US$1.5 million event with a battling round that included five birdies at Doha Golf Club. Green shot a sparkling 68 to lead on nine-under-par 135, one ahead of Swedish duo Pierre Fulke, the overnight leader who returned a 70 and Robert Karlsson who fired a bogey-free 67. For a man who had booked an early flight home in anticipation of missing the cut, Thailand's Thaworn Wiratchant was certainly flying high with a 68 for fourth place, two behind the leader. India's Arjun Atwal moved into prime position with a 69 that left him four off the pace despite playing with a borrowed driver and a brand new putter after his two favourite clubs went missing. Els was in danger of missing his first cut in six years on the European Tour after his poor start. But he showed his class. Fresh from an unprecedented third victory in Dubai on Sunday, Els conceded he has yet to tame the course. 'I can't really put my finger on it here,' said Els. 'A lot of times, you hit what you think is a good shot and it finishes nowhere. At least I played better.' Els is confident of reeling in the leaders. 'I can't see the guys going very low on this course. I need a really quality weekend' he said. Thaworn did not hit a single fairway, turning in 37. But the Thai enjoyed a blazing finish, shooting five birdies on his inward journey. 'It was too windy early on but on the back nine, the wind died down and I started hitting more fairways. I had a really nice finish with five birdies. I'll be changing my flight home to Sunday now!' he said. Atwal had a startling start to his day. At the range for his warm-up, he realised his driver and putter were missing from his bag and he hurriedly borrowed a different make of driver from compatriot Amandeep Johl and bought a similar putter from the club's pro-shop before going on to shoot a 69. The left-handed Green is gunning for a Gulf double, having won his lone European Tour victory at the 1997 Dubai Desert Classic. The 34-year-old Aussie is however wary of Els. 'You can never write him off. He's renowned for shooting low scores. I wouldn't mind betting he puts together a six under round or something like that. It would be awesome [to complete a Gulf double] but there is a long way to go,' said Green, who enjoyed his best year in Europe last season by finishing 17th on the money list. Asian Tour number one Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand carded a second straight 71 and will start the third round tied with his playing partner for two rounds, Els. He had a strong outward nine, turning in 33 with four birdies against a dropped shot but was blown off course on the inward journey with three bogeys against a birdie on his last hole, the par-five ninth. 'The wind was changing a lot and I misjudged some shots coming in. But I was happy with my overall play. I only missed two fairways and four greens in these tough conditions,' said the 58th-ranked Thongchai.