A fascinating second round at the Smurfit Kappa European Open went the way of the Welsh, as WGC–World Cup winning partners Bradley Dredge and Stephen Dodd finished clear of home favourite and past winner Darren Clarke at The K Club.
The red dragon duo strode across this manicured corner of Kildare countryside with Dredge once again ending the day atop the leaderboard on nine under par 135, one clear of his compatriot Dodd.
Directly below the Welshmen is a multinational gathering featuring Ulsterman Clarke on seven under par and the trio of Denmark’s Søren Kjeldsen, India’s Jeev Milkha Singh and England’s Anthony Wall in fourth spot a stroke further back.
Blustery winds and squally showers made the going tough for the morning starters but the unflappable Dodd made light of the conditions to such an extent that he wants more of the same over the weekend.
“I would probably prefer it a bit windy tomorrow – I grew up playing in these sorts of conditions,” admitted Dodd, after signing for a three under par round of 69 that contained six birdies and three dropped shots.
Having won the Nissan Irish Open last year, Dodd is a familiar face to the Irish crowds and the player himself admitted to feeling right at home here.
“I like the way the golf courses are set up in Ireland, and I think the weather has got a lot to do with how I play. I feel quite comfortable in these conditions. I tend to hit the ball pretty straight and that’s what you need on these types of golf courses.”
Dredge, who partnered Dodd to victory in last year’s WGC-Algarve World Cup in Portugal, had started the day in the lead and maintained that position with a controlled round of two under par 70.
After the fireworks of Thursday, when he carded seven birdies and no bogeys in front of a record single day crowd of 29,032 at The K Club, the Cardiff golfer adopted more of a roundhead approach as he negotiated the Smurfit Course with no dropped shots and birdies at the ninth and 15th holes. He is the only golfer in the field to have not experienced a bogey in 36 holes.
“I haven’t made a bogey yet, but I hate to tempt fate. I haven’t played fantastic from tee to green the last few days, but I’ve scrambled really well and I’ve holed some good putts when I needed them and knocked some shots close at the right sort of time.
“Last year I had a good run this time of year as well and I didn’t win. I try not to make a thing of it. I just want to go out there and just try to play a bit more aggressive and see what happens and change the strategy a bit.”
While Dredge speaks openly about wanting to return to The K Club in September as a member of Ian Woosnam’s European Ryder Cup Team, Dodd says he has hardly given a thought to September’s spectacular.
“Stephen is that sort of guy, whereas I am a bit different. I have set The Ryder Cup as one of my goals – I like to aim high,” commented Dredge.
Another man currently outside the automatic Ryder Cup places is Clarke, a veteran of four matches against the United States, who ground his way to a round of 68 for a halfway total of seven under par 137.
“I played very well for 13 holes and lost it a little bit. The course played tougher than yesterday and seven under is not bad. I am certainly working hard at home and hitting a lot of balls.”
While Clarke is thankfully relatively close to home this week, Indian golfer Singh finds himself on yet another continent having arrived in Ireland from America via Japan, where he is committed to playing a number of events each year.
Singh’s career has turned around after winning his maiden European Tour title at the Volvo China Open in April and he produced a fine round of 68, four under par, to move right in contention among the group in fourth place.
“Before that win I did not trust myself under pressure. I was going through that emotion of just trying too hard. But I am not trying that hard anymore. I am letting things happen and just trying to follow my routine. I was trying so hard to win – I always thought about winning but I don’t think about winning anymore. I just try to concentrate on my routine and that is putting less pressure on myself and I am pulling off the shots more.”
England’s Paul Casey carded a 73 for seventh place on five under par 139, while a shot further back are Ireland’s Stephen Browne, Christian Cévaër of France, Niclas Fasth of Sweden, Steven O’Hara of Scotland, Colin Montgomerie of Scotland, José Manuel Lara of Spain and Jamie Spence of England.
Browne’s round of five under par 67 was the lowest of the day and included the first eagle of the tournament at the 18th.
|T2||LARA, José Manuel||ESP||18||-7|
|T4||SINGH, Jeev Milkha||IND||18||-6|