Friday, 19 March 2010

He might not countenance such talk, but Stephen Dodd has turned his season around to such an extent that he can start thinking about a possible return to The K Club under the captaincy of fellow Welshman Ian Woosnam following his two stroke victory in the Smurfit Kappa European Open.

Dodd has now won both of Ireland’s top two golfing titles and the prospect of achieving a unique treble by adding The Ryder Cup as part of a successful European Team in September is not something he is willing to get carried away with.

It is this level-headed quality that eventually made the difference at a windswept Smurfit Course on a day when names were blown up and down the leaderboard with the regularity of the swirling south westerly gusts.

Patience was always going to be the name of the game and Dodd has it in spades. He is also a very talented player in adverse weather, a quality that also brought him success in last year’s Nissan Irish Open just down the road from The K Club at Carton House.

For most of the day no-one seemed able to break the log-jam at the top and in the end the outcome was decided in two holes, Dodd birdieing the 16th and then the testing par three 17th.

The birdie brace meant he could avoid taking any risks at the 18th and a par five gave him a round of 70 for a winning total of nine under par 279, and a significant first prize of €578,792 (£400,000) presented by Dr Michael Smurfit.

The drama at the 18th was provided by Anthony Wall of England, who holed from 35ft to claim a share of second place on seven under and the one exempt place on offer for The Open at Hoylake.

Up until that moment José Manuel Lara, Wall’s playing partner, was in possession of The Open place, but the young Spaniard could only make par and missed out due to the fact that he shot 74 to Wall’s 73. It was Lara’s fourth runner-up finish on The European Tour and earned him €301,622, the biggest cheque of his career.

It was also Dodd’s biggest pay day and the victory – the third by a Welshman in the Smurfit Kappa European Open after Philip Price in 2003 and Woosnam in 1988 - moved him up to 16th place on The Ryder Cup European Points List.

“It’s been a pretty poor start to the year for me and winning was not really what I expected, but golf’s golf and you never know what to expect. Because of this I haven’t really given much thought to The Ryder Cup to be honest. I’m just going to concentrate on next week and Loch Lomond,” commented Dodd.

“I think patience, especially over the weekend, was a big factor in my win. It was always going to be tough out there and I kept it in play well.”

While the most arresting finish of the day was provided by Wall, the most outstanding turnaround over the weekend most definitely came from Paul McGinley.

The Irishman left for Dublin Airport on Friday afternoon convinced he had missed the cut on two over par. At that stage he was 91st. By close of play on Sunday he finished in a share of fourth place on six under par alongside the English trio of Simon Khan, Graeme Storm and Lee Westwood, and Jeev Milka Singh of India.

McGinley said: "I hope this can turn my season around. It's only one week - two rounds in fact - so let's give things into perspective. If I am going to make The Ryder Cup Team I've got to play much better. Bottom line. I haven't been playing well enough to make it in the last six months."

Until Wall sank his putt on the last, Lara had been poised to secure the exemption into The Open. However by virtue of his birdie, Wall finished with a 73 to the Spaniard's 74 and will enjoy teeing up at Royal Liverpool.

"I wasn't aware of what was at stake over the birdie putt on the last" said Wall. "I just wanted to make sure I did not do anything stupid. It was important from the money aspect and the fact that I no longer have to try to qualify for The Open."

Lara added: "He (Wall) made a great putt to get The Open spot and that is what I was thinking about over the last few holes. I thought everything was lost after three bogeys in a row but I came back with two birdies. Now I have to try again at Loch Lomond."

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1DODD, StephenWAL18-9
T2LARA, José ManuelESP18-7
T2WALL, AnthonyENG18-7
T4SINGH, Jeev MilkhaIND18-6
T4WESTWOOD, LeeENG18-6
T4MCGINLEY, PaulIRL18-6
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