Welshman Stephen Dodd illuminated an overcast day at Carton House Golf Club, finishing with a dazzling birdie at the last to wrest the halfway lead from Englishmen Nick Dougherty and David Howell, another Welshman, Bradley Dredge and Swede Pelle Edberg in the Nissan Irish Open.
The softly-spoken and undemonstrative 38 year old from Barry heads a top class field by one shot with a five under par total of 139 after rounds of 69 and 70. Dougherty and Howell signed for 72 and 70 respectively to share second place on 140 with late finishers Dredge and Edberg, who shared the distinction of shooting 68, the lowest scores of a tough day.
Ireland’s Paul McGinley led a stirring charge by the home nation with seven birdies and a double bogey seven in his 69 for 141, the same mark as England’s Philip Golding.
However Dodd once again confirmed his improvement after 14 years as a professional without a victory until his success in the Volvo China Open, the first event of The 2005 European Tour International Schedule.
Only Ernie Els’s majestic eagle at the last denied him of a play-off chance in the Dubai Desert Classic, and it seems barely a week goes by without Dodd featuring at some stage in proceedings.
He admitted: “It’s been a great six months. I had a good finish to the end of last season and it gave me a lot of confidence. So this start to the year could not have gone any better.”
Despite his new found wealth – he currently lies eighth on The European Tour Order of Merit with €431,043 to his name – Dodd is not the showy type. He has yet to treat himself to anything special, apart from beginning to build a new home, and doesn’t drive a flashy car. Nor does he set any special targets for himself.
“I don’t have targets or goals. I just go from week to week and try to do my best. Possibly I might treat myself towards the end of he year but I’ll just see how the season goes and decide then.”
The complete antithesis of Dodd is the supremely confident Dougherty, who can talk entertainingly for England and enjoys life in a faster lane than the Welshman. However, both are extremely talented golfers capable of further successes.
Dougherty admitted: “Having won in Singapore at the start of the year I’d like to think I could win at least two or three times this year. I think that would be a great year.”
Meanwhile Howell continued to mine the rich vein of form he has shown of late. Last weekend the Ryder Cup player lost out to Thomas Björn in a play-off for The Daily Telegraph Dunlop Masters but despite feeling “distraught” at coming second, he has displayed great resilience at Carton House.
"It wasn’t an option not to play in the Irish Open” he declared. “In fact, that applies to any tournament in Britain or Ireland. I want to be part of it and it was doubly important this week to get out there and put some more good scores on the board. I tried to take the positives out of last week. At the end of the day, non-one beat me over 72 holes. It took extra holes to do that.”
Dredge closed with a pair of birdies for his outstanding 68 but was trumped by rookie Edberg. The Swede – a huge Arsenal fan – closed with three birdies in a row to ensure his tee time in the third round will preclude the chance to see his team against Manchester United in the FA Cup final.
A total of 74 players on four over and better survived the demanding Carton House examination and the draw for the third round brought the popular grouping from an Irish perspective with Darren Clarke teeing off alongside Padraig Harrington after both men finished on 145, one over par.