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Ex-Lobo teammates Perez, Green lead European Tour golf event in Saudi Arabia

ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia —University of New Mexico alumni — and former roommates — Victor Perez and Gavin Green are first and second on the leaderboard and will be paired in Saturday’s third round at the Saudi International, a European Tour event at Al Murooj Golf Course.

Perez, who has qualified for the Masters, birdied four of his last six holes and shot a 5-under 65 for the second straight day on Friday to take a one-shot lead over Green, of Malaysia.

Perez is maintaining his great form on the Tour that has seen him finish outside the top 20 just once since winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in September for his first title, climbing to No. 41 in the ranking in the process. He has qualified for this year’s Masters.

Green, who shared the lead with Graeme McDowell after a first-round 64, was Perez’s nearest rival after shooting 67.

McDowell (68) was a shot further back.

Green and Perez will play in the final group on Saturday on the course next to the Red Sea and they know each other well, having been roommates for four years as Lobos.

“I’m sure we will talk about some stuff. It’s been a couple years,” said Green, who is ranked No. 197. “I know he’s been playing really good. Just have fun with him tomorrow.”

Seeking to successfully defend the title, Dustin Johnson is only five shots off the lead after shooting 68 to follow up his first-round 67. He was tied for eighth.

Phil Mickelson, another big name to commit to the tournament despite criticism of the tour coming to a country with its record of human-rights violations, shot 70 and was one stroke further back.

Rory McIlroy said last month that the country’s image was a factor in declining his invitation and a reported $2.5 million appearance fee.

Golf Channel coverage airs during a scheduled 2:30 a.m.-7 a.m. MT window both Saturday and Sunday. The winner’s share of the $3.5 million purse is $583,333.

(Click here for the leaderboard.)