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18th green , Carnoustie golf course . Picture ref CG1

Golf fans are looking forward to a "duel in the sun" at the British Open golf championship this weekend to rival Tom Watson's battle with Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry in 1977. "I've got to do my thing, play my game. We'll shake hands at the end, I know that," said Els.Tiger Woods and Ernie Els fired course-record 65s on Friday to set up a mouth-watering weekend on the Royal Hoylake course

Woods and then Els tamed the sun-scorched Royal Liverpool links. The American, now on 12 under, will take a one-shot lead over his South African rival into Saturday's third round. In between their pyrotechnics, Woods' Ryder Cup team-mate Chris DiMarco also carded a seven-under 65 to reach nine under, one better than Els' compatriot Retief Goosen, who posted a 66.

With conditions almost perfect for low scoring it is hardly surprising that the one-under-par cut is the lowest at a major since the 1990 Open - a stat that has left a jumbo full of stars heading for the airport. And that included the likes of Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington.

On a beautiful day by the Dee, Woods did what many expected him to do - he chewed up the course. His opening round had been a subdued affair, overshadowed by the nonsense surrounding his pairing with Nick Faldo, until an eagle at the last took him to within a shot of Graeme McDowell's lead.
The world number one started slowly in his second stab at Hoylake too. But once he repaired the bogey he made at the 3rd with a birdie at four it was game on. Regulation birdies - for him - came at five and eight to get to the turn at seven under. Then the real master class began. He birdied the 10th and 11th before providing the shot of the tournament so far. Having hit a two-iron to the 14th fairway - his accuracy from the tee this week has been uncharacteristically good as he has hardly touched his woods - he then drained a blind four-iron for a remarkable eagle. Another shot was picked up at the par-five 16th - he is making Hoylake's fives look embarrassingly easy - and it was something of a shock that the 30-year-old failed to do the same on 18. Even so, his effort looked tournament-endingly good because at that point only DiMarco was even remotely in touch.
When asked if the Open was over for another year, Woods tried his best to be modest but nobody was buying it. "Unless there's some kind of storm coming in and it's cancelled after two days we've got a long way to go," he said as sincerely as he could. But then came Els to rescue the Open and perhaps restore his reputation. The 36-year-old South African has been in an 18-month slump that was only accelerated by his unfortunate knee injury last year. Now, at last, the 2002 Open champion looks once more like the genuine challenger to Tiger's ascendancy that he was two years ago. In many ways, his 65 was the best of the bunch. Bogey-free and utterly in control. Woods and Els have not played in a final group together at a major since the last round of the US Open at Pebble Beach in 2000. Tiger outplayed Ernie that day, 67 to 72.

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