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Charging Els moves to the top

Wild weather seems to bring out the best in Ernie Els, who was both steady and spectacular yesterday in a cool rain, warm sunshine, and blustery conditions for an 8-under-par 64 that gave him a two-shot lead in the American Express Championship at Thomastown, Ireland.

Els emerged from his post-majors funk with one of his best rounds of the year, starting with four straight birdies and ending with a 10-foot putt to save par at Mount Juliet to move into position for his first World Golf Championships title.

Els was at 11-under 133 after two rounds and led by two over Miguel Angel Jimenez (68) and Todd Hamilton (69), who beat Els in a four-hole playoff at Royal Troon to win the British Open.

Tiger Woods's back injury was much improved, but his putter went on the disabled list over the final nine holes. He three-putted twice, missed a couple of short ones, and wound up with 19 putts on the back nine for a 70 that left him five shots behind.

Woods was in a large group at 138 that included Brad Faxon (68) and local favorite Padraig Harrington (69).

PGA -- Steve Pate closed his 7-under 65 with two birdies and shared the lead with Harrison Frazar after two rounds of the Southern Farm Bureau Classic at Madison, Miss.

Pate, who hasn't won on the PGA Tour in six years, was at 12-under 132. David Duval finished at 1 under and missed the cut for the fifth time in seven events this year. He had four bogeys in his second-round 72.

Champions -- Wayne Levi tied a tournament record with an 8-under 64 and held a one-shot lead over Rodger Davis after the first round of the Constellation Energy Classic at Hunt Valley, Md.

Joe Inman and Eduardo Romero had 67s and were one shot in front of a group of 11 that included Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, and Tom Watson.

MGA -- Don Anderson of The Kittansett Club shot a 2-under 70, the low round of the day, breezing home to win the Massachusetts Senior Championship at Sankaty Head GC in Siasconset.

Anderson won his first MGA title, posting five birdies amid three bogeys to win by seven shots, the only player in the field to break par (7-under 137).

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