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Els takes a dip into the lead at Bay Hill

By Simon Evans

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Ernie Els got his feet wet on Friday to continue his run of impressive pre-Masters form by grabbing a share of the second round lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The South African's solid three under-par round of 69 at Bay Hill was enough to move him in a tie for the lead on seven-under with American trio D.J Trahan, Ben Curtis and Davis Love III.

It could have been very different for Els, who earlier this month claimed his first tour win in two years with victory at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral, if he had not made a remarkable recovery from a water hazard on the sixth.

Having just three-putted on the fifth, for his second bogey of the round, Els drove into water to the left of the fairway on the sixth.

"I hit it really solid but I pulled it. I almost made it but it pitched just on the bank and rolled back into the water," said Els, who then took his shoes and socks off to play out of the shallow water.

"That was a big break because if the ball was another yard left it would have been into the deep end," he said of the ball's position in the hazard.

"But I could play it and I chipped out of the water, played a four iron just right of the green and I was up and down for par.

"I was a yard away from probably not being in the tournament anymore because that would have been a sure double-bogey and I would be back to even-par and in a battle to make the cut."

Els went on to make six birdies and a bogey in the rest of his round to set up what he called "a very interesting weekend".

Joint overnight leader Love had an interesting round on Friday when he did not record a par until his 10th hole, having made six birdies and three bogeys on his first nine.

Three more bogeys followed on the front nine with just a single birdie to leave him at one-under for the day after his excellent six-under on Thursday.

"I hit a lot of good shots gain, a lot nice putts and two very nice chip-ins. I was just a little erratic," he told reporters.

Colombian Camilo Villegas failed to make the cut along with Briton Justin Rose and Americans Kenny Perry and Rocco Mediate.

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)