Poised for triumph

ORLANDO - Ernie Els went two years without winning on the US PGA Tour.

ORLANDO - Ernie Els went two years without winning on the US PGA Tour.

Now he has a chance to make it two wins in a row.

The Big Easy was in a four-way tie for the lead with Ben Curtis, Davis Love III and DJ Trahan going into the weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at 7-under 137 with a 69.

Els could easily have spent Friday grinding to make the cut except for the way he survived a nasty patch on the front nine, when the tournament could have gotten away from him.

"I don't know if it was the break or my mental strength. I'm not sure," Els said. "But you know, I got through that little patch and started building again."

He opened with a bogey from the bunker, which is no disgrace. He hit a bad tee shot to the left on the par-5 fourth hole, making such a mess that he had to struggle for par. Then came a three-putt bogey on No. 5 from only about 35 feet.

"That really got me angry," Els said. "You don't want to be in that frame of mind standing on the sixth tee." The par-5 sixth wraps around a lake, and with the wind in his face, Els hit a solid shot that was slightly pulled. It took a few hops and disappeared over the edge toward the water, leading to what surely would be a bogey, maybe worse.

That's when fate intervened.

Els found the ball a few feet away from a shelf, sitting in an inch (two centimeters) of water. He removed his shoes, and had a good enough lie that he could play out to the fairway. From there, he hit 4-iron short of the green and saved par.

Just look at him now. - Sapa-AP