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Els in fine form in build-up to British Open title defense

Ernie Els stayed ahead of his rivals with a last hole birdie in the BMW International second round in Munich.

Story highlights

  • Ernie Els leads BMW International at halfway stage
  • Shoots a three-under 69 for 12-under 132
  • Els defending British Open crown next month
  • Justin Rose stays in contention in Travelers Championship

Evergreen Ernie Els set the halfway pace at the BMW International in Munich Friday after finishing his second round with a flourish.

Coming off the back of a strong performance at the U.S. Open where he tied for fourth behind Justin Rose, the 43-year-old South African carded a three-under 69 on the Munchen Eichennied course.

Combined with his superb first round of 63, it left Els on 12-under 132 and one shot clear of Frenchman Alexander Levy (68) and England's Matthew Baldwin (69), who tied for second place on 11-under par.

Els slipped back when he carded a double bogey after finding the water on the seventh, but four birdies in the next seven holes saw him back in command.

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He dropped a shot on the 16th, but grabbed the outright lead with a birdie at the last.

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"I'm in a nice position obviously," he told the official European Tour website.

"I'm quite fortunate to be where I am. I didn't play as good today as I did yesterday obviously. I fought hard for a score today and satisfied with that." Els will be looking for a morale boosting victory ahead of his defense of the British Open title at Muirfield next month.

Defending BMW champion Danny Willett of England improved his chances of doubling up in the 25th edition of the tournament with a seven-under 65, tied for fourth with Bernd Wiesberger of Austria.

Home hope Martin Kaymer battled an upset stomach to card a one-under 71 to stay in the hunt on nine under par in a five-strong group which also included popular Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Read: Winning? There's more to life says Jimenez

Meanwhile, at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut, Rose kept in touch with the leaders after another solid round on the TPC River Highlands Course.

Fresh from his triumph at Merion, the Englishman carded a two-under 68 to go into the clubhouse on five-under 135.

It left him five shots adrift of leader Bubba Watson, who shot a 67 to follow his opening 63.

Watson, a runner up in the event last year, is searching for his first win since last year's U.S. Masters.

His nearest challengers were Ireland's Padraig Harrington and Patrick Reed, who were both eight-under.

First round leader Charley Hoffman slipped back after his opening 61 with a 73.