Welshman Stephen Dodd battled biting cold and windy conditions to open up a three stroke shot lead at the halfway stage of the Volvo China Open after a two under par 70 took him to six under par 138.
Dodd illuminated a gloomy day at Shanghai Silport Golf Club as temperatures dipped to near freezing point as he pulled clear of England’s Matthew King, Denmark’s Søren Hansen and Joon Chung of Korea, who share second place on three under par 141 in the tenth Volvo China Open, jointly sanctioned for the first time with The European Tour.
Hansen, playing with nine good fingers after suffering a hairline fracture in the last finger of his left hand, shot a 71, King returned a 73 while Chung dropped three shots in his last five holes for a 72.
European Ryder Cup player Thomas Björn stayed within striking distance in the Volvo China Open following a 72. The resurgent Dane said trailing the leader by five strokes is not insurmountable. "Level par is a good score, it was tough out there. I had it going for a while as I was two under after ten holes and then made some mistakes. But you're going to make bogeys in these conditions. In the last five or six holes, it was just a question of trying to get quickly into the clubhouse without any more mistakes.
"It leaves me in the golf tournament and that's the important thing. A 70 from Stephen is a great round, there's a bit of catching up to do but five shots is not a lot and there is the weekend to go. I couldn't believe how cold it was. When you stay on the 70th floor in a building in Shanghai you can't make out the weather. You think it'll be alright after yesterday but when I got outside, it was cold," said Björn, who finished seventh in Japan last week.
Since playing on The European Tour in 1995, Dodd has never won a title but braved the difficult conditions to shoot four birdies, including a chip-in on the eighth. "It was quite cold and rained for a couple of holes. I'm obviously pleased with that score," said Dodd.
With the temperature dipping drastically to about two degrees Celsius in the morning, the Welshman hit only four shots at the practice range before his early morning start and had three practice putts. "I hit one pitch, three six irons and had three putts and a few swings in the clubhouse. It was just too cold, I was just wasting time out there. When I was out here at 6.15am, there was no one at the range.
"I've never played in a tournament in conditions like this. I'm just pleased with a 70. We're halfway through the tournament and there are a lot of good players out there. At least I won't be off at 6.15am tomorrow," said Dodd, fresh from his 58th finish on the money ranking in The 2004 European Tour season. The Volvo China Open is the opening event on the European Tour's 2005 International Schedule.
Korea's Chung is enjoying new found confidence, thanks to recent golf lessons with renowned swing guru David Leadbetter in Orlando. He was chasing the leader, going to three under on the day through 12 holes but stumbled with late bogeys on 14th , 16th and 17th.
Hansen hurt his finger playing basketball last week and as it is tapped, he has cut off the end bit of his glove to fit the finger in.
"I'm supposed to be keeping the finger straight but it is hard moving the club that way. The doctor said I could play if I wanted to. I'm playing with some new irons this week and that's why I'm out here for the next two weeks. It's the small movements that hurt. It's not quite gripping the way I want to. I'm due to play next week in Hong Kong, so hopefully it's warmer!"
Another Welshman Bradley Dredge, the co-overnight leader, carded a 75 to slip to two under par for the event in tied fifth place while Unho Park of Australia, tied with Dredge at the start of the round, fell off the leaderboard with an 80.
The cut was seven-over-par 151, a clear reflection of the tough conditions. A total of 72 players made it through to the weekend, including the lone amateur in the field, American-Chinese 19-year-old Henry Liaw. The former US Junior Amateur champion added a 77 to his opening 73.