Paul McGinley of Ireland and Welshman Stephen Dodd fired six under par 66s at Houghton Golf Club in Johannesburg to take a slender lead into the second round of the dunhill championship. The pair finished a day of hot scoring and even hotter overhead conditions one clear of seven players with one of South Africa’s favourite sons, Ernie Els, a further shot behind on 68.
McGinley, who abandoned plans to play the West Coast Swing in the United States after failing to receive sufficient invitations, birdied the last two holes in his first competitive round of 2002 to underline the fact that his game is still in good order.
Dodd, 66th in last week’s Bell’s South African Open in Durban, hinted that his game is beginning to click again after the winter break. Neither player dropped a shot all day, a factor in their ability to break free from the pack on 67.
McGinley, eagerly looking forward to his Ryder Cup debut later this year, explained: “I had intended going to the West Coast but didn’t get enough invitations to make it worthwhile. It was disappointing, but it’s not an issue for my to raise” he said.
Instead, a late invitation was forthcoming to attend this week’s tournament in South Africa and McGinley – a contracted dunhill player – kept his sponsors happy with a controlled performance.
He added: “I’ve drawn a line under it. I’ve come here instead and this will help me get competitive for the WGC-Accenture Match Play. But certainly, if I was a sponsor, I would want the highest ranked players in my tournament, and I am 32nd in the world and a current Ryder Cup player.”
Dodd, winner of the Amateur Championship almost 13 years ago, has waited a long time to break through and he showed distinct signs of going upwardly mobile last season when he finished 97th on the Volvo Order of Merit.
He said: “I think there have been times when you think ‘is it all worth it?’ but I always believed I was good enough to be out here and that was enough motivation to keep me playing. I think I am playing better because I have a good caddie, Paul Ray, a good coach in Terry Hanson from Cardiff Golf Club and a psychologist, Tara Edwards, who has been a great help.
“She has given me a lot more focus about the way I should go about my business. Being positive is one thing but there is a lot more to it than that. I like what she says.”
Behind the leaders, the field was gathering to make a tilt at McGinley and Dodd. Another Welshman, Jamie Donaldson, continued his bright start on The European Tour with a solid 67 to join Jean-Francois Remesy of France, England’s Greg Owen and Mark Roe and South Africans Hendrik Buhrmann, Nic Henning and James Kingston.
Els was not entirely satisfied with his round of 68 based on the number of birdie opportunities he scorned. However he was deeply impressed with the effort of former international footballer and rookie professional golfer, Roy Wegerle.
“I think it’s phenomenal what he’s doing after playing another sport to be very high level for most of his life” said the two-time US Open Champion. Wegerle, capped 41 times for the United States but born and bred in South Africa, birdied the first hole of his fledgling European Tour career but eventually had to settle for a rounds of 76. He said: “At least I didn’t disgrace myself.”