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Els second in Singapore after winning twice to start '03

1/27/2003

SINGAPORE -- Ernie Els lost the lead with a bogey on the
last hole, and China's Zhang Lian-Wei made a 3-foot birdie putt at
No. 18 to win the Singapore Masters on Sunday.

Els, coming off consecutive PGA Tour victories in Hawaii and a
win at last year's season-ending Nedbank Challenge in South Africa,
had three bogeys on the back nine in a round of 1-over 73 and
finished at 9-under 279 at Laguna National Golf and Country Club.

Zhang, a self-taught golfer, shot a 2-under 70 for a 10-under
278 total and the biggest win of his career.

Els held a one-stroke lead heading to the 386-yard, par-4 18th.
He pushed his tee shot into the rough, and his approach landed
short of the green. He chipped to within 5 feet, but missed the par
putt.

Zhang's 9-iron from 136 yards narrowly missed the hole for an
eagle before stopping 3 feet from the cup. He made the putt to seal
the victory.

"I just didn't have good touch today. But I have to take my hat
off to Zhang, he stuck in well and didn't make any mistakes
really," Els said.

Els, who held a two-stroke lead at the start of the final round,
pushed his lead to three strokes on the second hole. Zhang moved
into a tie for the lead with birdies on Nos. 3, 4, and 7.

"I played OK but I didn't putt well at all. From tee to green I
was pretty good but from the 15th onwards, I didn't play well,"
said Els, who made bogeys on Nos. 8, 11, 14 and 18. "It is always
tough to lose like this but it has happened before and will probably happen again."

Zhang bogeyed the 202-yard, par-3 17th, giving Els a one-stroke lead.

Even Zhang seemed surprised with the two-stroke swing on the
final hole and his victory.

"I was pretty pumped up on the front nine, but even then I was
still targeting a top-3 finish," Zhang said. "This is Ernie Els I
beat. The world No. 2, who is playing very well right now."

In eight years on the Asian PGA and Japan Tours, Zhang has won
$785,486. In contrast, Els has earned $3.81 million from his last
three tournaments.

Els swept the PGA Tour's Hawaii events the last two weeks to
become the first player since Steve Jones in 1989 to win the tour's
first two tournaments of the year.

Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng finished third, one stroke behind
Els. England's Simon Khan and Dutchman Maarten Lafeber tied for
fourth another stroke back.