Dodd states his case for a Ryder Cup spot

The main reason why Ian Woosnam must quite fancy having Stephen Dodd in his Ryder Cup team here this September is rather more pertinent than the little fact of him sharing a nationality with the European captain. For the quiet Welshman proved yesterday that when it comes to golf in Ireland at the moment there are few bigger noises.

This European Open title was the second the 39-year-old has picked up in Co Kildare in 14 months. Last year's Irish Open was characterised by Dodd's steely temperament as he prevailed in a play-off over David Howell. This one was clad in titanium.

At the end of a day when a dozen or more players came within sniffing distance of the £400,000 first prize, Dodd simply tweaked the nose of tension and pulled effortlessly clear. Three birdies on a back nine that had proved as straightforward as the Irish sense of humour gave him a two-shot victory over England's Anthony Wall and Spain's Jose Manuel Lara.

The 40-footer across the 17th green was the moment it was his, although you would not necessarily have known it. Just like the victory tap-in 15 minutes later for a 70 and a nine-under total, Dodd's celebrations were less shirt over head and more head under cap. It is just not his way to whoop and holler.

Inevitably, this deficit in the charisma tank is the largely irrelevant factor why sponsors and media alike send their eyeballs sky-bound whenever his name hits the leader board. But very soon, if not last night, they will be having to concede the quality of the man.

After flailing around the circuit as a lowly journeyman for well over a decade, the former amateur champion, who turns 40 next Saturday, has won as many European Tour events (three) in the past two seasons as any of his fellow members and when you put this next to the World Cup he lifted with Bradley Dredge last October it is obvious golf has another winner on its hand. Or, at least it should be.

At 16th in the standings he is now a genuine contender in the race for the Ryder Cup which takes place in three months' time here on the adjoining Palmer Course.

"I suppose I am," said Dodd, sounding typically unimpressed after the most illustrious success of his career. "I've not given that much thought. It's a long way off and for now I'm just going to look back on this with pride."

When he analysed some of the names behind him, his chest should have expanded to the point of bursting. In a tie for third on six-under came a group including Lee Westwood and Paul McGinley, both happy just to be back in the mix, both praying they have at last turned the corner. McGinley, in particular, must believe the fates are back with him after an incredible turn of events.

On Friday evening the Dubliner was so sure he had missed the cut on two-over that he was at the airport about to catch the next plane to London. His golf bag was even in the hold when first the flight was delayed by 45 minutes because of a bomb scare and then his wife rang to say "stay there, the scores are tumbling, you may sneak in".

McGinley pleaded to the airline to retrieve his clubs, the officials consented and a 67 and a 69 later, he was indeed flying high. When he left the course after the second round he was 91st; when he left it last night he was 88 places better off. "If EI169 had not been delayed I would have been flying over the course, not playing on it," said the Irishman.

McGinley now appears a certainty again to face America. Dodd is a definite possibility and by no means a grim one.

* Trevor Immelman put two near misses on the PGA Tour behind him last night with a birdie on the treacherous 72nd hole at Cog Hill in Lemont, Illinois, to win the Western Open by two shots from a resurgent Tiger Woods. Woods, the world No 1, struggled down the front nine but four birdies on the homeward run applied pressure on the South African as he came down the stretch. However, Immelman picked up shots on the 15th and 16th holes and was able to rebound from a bogey at the 17th for a 13-under total. Overnight leader Vijay Singh faltered early to fall back into the pack. Justin Rose finished at five under with Brian Davis and Luke Donald a shot further back.


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