[to top of second column]
He played the 12 holes beautifully as he tries to become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2001 to win twice on the Florida swing, and put together back-to-back wins for the first time since 2003.
Els pulled away with a 12-foot birdie on the fifth and a two-putt birdie from the fringe at No. 6. And right when it looked like Couch might pull even at the turn with an approach to 4 feet at No. 9, Els countered by pitching in from 53 yards for birdie.
Two more birdies followed, allowing him to build a five-shot lead. Then came two bad holes, and Bay Hill became interesting.
"There's no excuse for those bogeys or double bogeys I made," Els said. "Just came at the wrong time, and now I'm in a big battle tomorrow morning depending on conditions. It could be a wild finish."
He has a history of blowing big leads only to recover. Els was in charge at Muirfield in 2002 at the British Open until taking a double bogey late in the round, only to make birdie on the 17th and winning a four-man playoff. At Doral earlier that year, he lost an eight-shot lead to Woods until pulling himself together to win.
Except for those two holes, the Big Easy hasn't looked this composed in years, good timing with the Masters around the corner.
The only players more upset than Els were those well out of contention who had to return Monday. Of those who finished, J.P. Hayes and D.J. Trahan each shot 70 and posted at 6-under 282.
Phil Mickelson, who started his week with a 58 during a casual round in the California desert, ended it with a 77.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
< Sports index
Back to top
News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries
Law & Courts |
Spiritual Life |
Health & Fitness |
Calendar | Letters to the Editor