Bradley Dredge has one hand on his maiden European Tour title after surging eight strokes clear of the field with a sensational 12 under par 60 over the spectacular Santo da Serra course in the third round of the Madeira Island Open.
The Welshman, the highest ranked played in the field, takes an eight shot lead over England’s Van Phillips into the final round after moving to 15 under par with some sensational golf and it could have been the first 59 on The European Tour, although with preferred lies in operation it would not have counted as a record.
Ten birdies and an eagle in his first 16 holes left Dredge needing a birdie over the last two holes to break the magic 60 barrier but his putt from ten feet on the 17th lipped out and when he drove in the rough on the 18th his chance was slipping. His approach found the putting surface but hit 30 foot putt for 59 slid by the left side of the hole. There have been ten previous rounds of 60 on The European Tour but only three on a par 72 course.
It seemed only a matter of time before the former Walker Cup player corrected the one glaring omission from his CV after enjoying a second, third and seven top ten finishes last season on his way to 18th in the Volvo Order of Merit and he is now firmly in control in Madeira.
Birdies at the first and third were followed by four in succession from the fifth for an outward half of 30. He saved par from his one bad shot of the day on the tenth and immediately got back on track with an eagle on the 11th, converting his 20 foot putt. That was the first of five successive threes, three of them for birdie before he made his final birdie of the round on the 16th.
“I really wanted to shoot a 59,” he said. “It is not very often you get a chance to shoot 59. I was very much aware of it and was really trying to hole that putt. I kept hitting iron shots close. I didn’t dive the ball as well as I normally do but my iron play and putting made up for that.
“I didn’t think about a 59 until walking off the green at 16th when I made birdie. I thought one more and I have a 59. Standing on 17th tee I was going through the shot and couldn’t help but think about it. I gave myself a good chance on the 17th and just hit a bad drive on the 18th. I would love to have hit the fairway on the last, hit a nice wedge in close and had a chance then.”
Dredge last led going into the final round at the Volvo Masters Andalucia at Valderrama where was one clear before he eventually finished third behind Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie. This time he is eight strokes clear.
“Guys have had big leads before and I have to go out tomorrow and just play as I did today. Try and hit the fairway, hit the green and hole the putts. When you get on a roll like that you have to keep doing whatever your are doing, keep thinking the same way and just keep doing it. I am going to go out tomorrow and try and shoot a good score. If I win by 12 then great, if I win by one that will be fine. I will win and that’s what I want to do. I will be very much aware of keeping myself and playing my own game, not affected by other people.”
Dredge’s nearest challenger by some distance is Phillips, playing his first event of the year on a sponsors invitation and showing the kind of form which helped him win the 1999 Algarve Open de Portugal. A win this week will regain his European Tour card after two years in the wilderness.
“I’m not surprised how well I have played in my first week back as I have worked really hard on my game,” said Phillips after a five under par 67. “I feel good about my game and the objective is definitely to get back on the main Tour. You never know what might happen around here.”
Fellow Englishman Andrew Marshall recovered from a triple bogey eight on the third with to post a three under par 69 to lie on six under par in third place, one stroke ahead of Sweden’s Fredrik Andersson who shot a 70.