Laid-back Dodd leads Welsh charge

James Corrigan,Portugal
Sunday 20 November 2005 01:00

"What, Doddy get excited?" said Bradley Dredge with a roar when asked whether the tension was already building before today's final-group, final-day joust with their dear neighbours. The final throes of an enthralling day proved that nerves are strangers to the 38-year-old as he led Wales to an 11-under 61 and a 27-under total, with England and Sweden the nearest on the quarter-century mark. Dodd is from Barry, and, believe it, this man is an island.

He certainly must have felt adrift when his younger partner plonked his ball in the water at the 17th and the advantage they had so methodically built with eight birdies and an eagle was in danger of being submerged. But with a nonchalant swish of a three-wood, over the lake guarding the par-five green, Wales were safe as they were again when Dredge once more found the wet stuff on the 18th and Dodd fearlessly stepped up.

"I knew towards the end that Doddy plays great under pressure," said Dredge, "so I helped him along and dumped it twice in the water." What Dredge would give for the better-ball format today as every shot counts in foursomes and he, at any rate, is appreciating just what this would mean to Welsh golf. "This is a big thing as we haven't won it since 1987," he said remembering the one and only time Ian Woosnam and David Llewellyn managed it in the event's 52-year history. "And to do it at the expense of England? Well it's always great to beat them in rugby and it would be great to beat them in golf as well."

Two proven winners stand in their way (four if you count the bubbling Swedes, Henrik Stenson and Niclas Fasth) and Luke Donald and David Howell will fancy their chances of retaining the title after managing to wade through the sodden turf here with a 63 that left a few shots out there. As the rains arrived with depressing inevitability to end eight months of Algarve drought and deprive the fairways of their run, another 59 - to match Thursday's spectacular - would always be a better-ball score too far for England, especially as Howell's magic looked doused somewhat. Thus, it was left for Donald to take on the role of principal aggressor and the 27-year-old slugger from High Wycombe unleashed a couple of neat birdie-birdie combinations at the second and third, and then the seventh and the eighth, to leave the front nine staggering after 30 clinical shots.

That was enough to see off their playing partners, Argentina, who proved the absurdity of this silly old game by taking three more on the front nine (35) with two balls than they had with one ball on Friday (32). That differential soon became six as Argentina struggled in with a 67, but by then their malcontent seemed to be spreading as England failed to birdie the par-five 17th despite Howell being on in two and thinking eagle. "Anybody can do it," said Howell, speculating on a 45-foot three-putt, "but I'm struggling to calm down because of it." Still, the mere mention of Dodd is enough to calm anybody down, even when there is a measure of revenge in proceedings. At the Irish Open in Maynooth in May, Howell lost out to Dodd in his second play-off in a week. "That hurt," he said. "So this would be nice, yeah, with all the national rivalry and all that." Best not to try winding up Doddy, however. This man is digital.

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