Sterne leads at halfway


European Tour:A closing birdie enabled South Africa’s Richard Sterne to regain a one-stroke lead at the halfway stage of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The 31-year-old was able to add only a 70 to his spectacular opening 62, but that was good enough to keep him on track for a sixth European Tour victory.

England’s Tommy Fleetwood, Scot Stephen Gallacher and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen share second place, but Lee Westwood has six shots to make up – and more than 25 players to get past – after a bitterly disappointing finish. The Irish challenge is headed by Peter Lawrie and Gareth Maybin after a 70 and 67 respectively left them four shots off the leader on 136.

Damien McGrane is four under after a 72, Michael Hoey two under following a second 71 and Shane Lowry is two over after a 72. Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley is seven over, having followed up his opening 74 with a 77.

Wild drive

Westwood drove wildly into the sandy waste on the 359-yard 17th and double-bogeyed one of the easiest holes on the Emirates course where he has three times been a runner-up, then failed to get up and down from just over the last green and had to settle for a 71. Sergio Garcia is only three behind despite a shoulder problem he thought might lead to his withdrawal and Paul Casey is one further back, but suffering from a “very very sore and painful” arthritic big toe on his right foot.

Back injury

Sterne was in the world’s top 30 before a long battle with a back injury and currently ranks only 165th. He resumed with a birdie, but bogeyed the fourth and 14th and needed more birdies at the three par fives on the back nine to grab top spot back on 12 under par.

Sterne said: “The course was a lot tougher with the wind and the greens definitely firmed out a bit.

“I had a long time sitting at home watching all the guys and especially the South Africans winning, so it’s nice to be back in the action and to have a chance.”

Former Challenge Tour winner Fleetwood has yet to drop a stroke and after a 68 said: “It’s just nice to be up there with all these great names.”

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