Saturday, 06 May 2000
Welshman Stephen Dodd, twice a winner on the Challenge Tour back in the early Nineties, is poised to become a champion again in the Credit Suisse Private Banking Open in Switzerland. The 33-year-old from Barry goes into the final round in Ascona with a two-shot lead after returning a best-of-the-day 66 in incessant rain.

It leaves him on 15-under-par 198 with Italy's Michele Reale, who returned 67, on 200, while Spaniard Alvaro Salto is a stroke further back after a 69.

Dodd, who began the day on 10 under, two strokes behind playing partner Adam Mednick of Sweden, was out in 35 but a run of three successive birdies from the 11th got him to 14 under before a 25-foot putt at 17 brought his fifth birdie of the day. And even the unrelenting rain failed to dampen his spirits.

"I played nicely but I felt I played a lot better than the score," he said. "But this is any easy game when you hit the ball straight and putt well although I didn't think I was that good on the greens today."

Nevertheless, Dodd, who used to be a Challenge Tour regular following his victories in Switzerland in 1991 and in Austria the following year but quit the Tour in 1994, is in awesome form. After dropping two shots on the opening two holes of the first round, he hasn't taken a bogey in the last 51.

"I'm pleased to be in this position," he added. "We'll just have to see what happens tomorrow."

Reale was almost as perfect as Dodd but found only four birdies in his 67 while Salto came home in 32 for 69 to join the chase for the title.

At one stage of the afternoon, the Swiss fans were dogging Dimitri Bieri's heels as he took the lead on 13 under with his fourth birdie of the day on the long 12th. But a double-bogey six at the 16th where he drove into the trees, could only chip out then three-putted, dropped him back.

Nevertheless, his 69 for 202 leaves him in joint fourth place with Mednick, who found only one birdie in a 72 after two rounds of 65.

But Bieri was not too dis-spirited in his first tournament of the year. It is the first time in three years that he has been in contention and the pressure told. After his victory in the 1997 Norwegian Open he had neck problems which left him with little feeling in his right arm.

However, after working with a Chinese doctor in Switzerland he regained his fitness and got back into the swing of golf by practising in Florida. With his problems behind him, the Swiss could yet play a big part in the outcome of the title.

Sweden's Marten Olander was another to revel in the rain. He had four birdies in a 67 for 203 while another Swede, Tony Edlund, winner of Friday's Long Driving contest, got to 11 under only to suffer back-to-back bogeys in a 70 for 204.

Joining him on that mark is England's Matthew Blackey, who holed a 90-yard wedge for an eagle-three on his way to a 68.

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