Dodd mixes it with big names

Welshman Stephen Dodd had a long wait today to see if he could live with the stars in the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Welshman Stephen Dodd had a long wait today to see if he could live with the stars in the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth.

The 37-year-old from Cardiff went into the second round of the European Tour’s £2.5m (€3.7m) flagship event in joint second place, but was not teeing off again until 3.30pm.

He was surrounded on the leaderboard by some of the biggest names in golf. Ernie Els, the world number three, led on eight under par, with Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez, three times a winner already this season, tied with Dodd on seven under and world number two Vijay Singh six under alongside Scotland’s Scott Drummond.

You have to go all the way down to 272nd in the world rankings to find Dodd’s name and the story of his professional career is one of trying to make a name for himself.

Prior to joining the paid ranks he did. In 1989 he won the British amateur title at Royal Birkdale and was part of the first Walker Cup team to win on American soil.

He played in the Masters the following April, but that year saw the first of 10 visits to the tour qualifying school and it was three years ago that he kept his card by finishing in the top 115 money winners.

Last season was his best yet. He had four top-10 finishes, came 80th on the Order of Merit and won £182,000 (€272,000).

Even that, though, is dwarfed by the sums Els and Singh in particular have earned – and by the first prize this weekend, which is nearly £420,000 (€629,000).

On his last trip to Wentworth, Els won £1m (€1.5m) for his record-equalling fifth success in the World Match Play, an event which will see big changes this October.

The field is going up from 12 to 16, with everybody therefore involved in first round games.

The extra players will come from the European Order of Merit and a mini-league table of four designated European events, which improves the chances of a greater representation of home players than last year.

The four events are this week’s Volvo PGA Championship, the Smurfit European Open in Dublin in July, the Omega European Masters in Switzerland in September and the Heritage Tournament at Woburn later the same month.

The only three Europeans involved last year were Dane Thomas Bjorn, Swede Fredrik Jacobson and German Alex Cejka – and none of them would have been there if Americans Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, Davis Love, Phil Mickelson, David Toms and Kenny Perry had not turned down the trip.

Woods has already indicated he will be unavailable this season as well.

The tournament’s new sponsors introduced a qualifying table last year based on performances in the majors, 10 players coming from that in addition to the defending champion and world number one.

Once again it remains to be seen how many overseas players – Masters champion Mickelson is guaranteed a spot – take up the chance to play on October 14-17, only two weeks after most of them are expected at the American Express World Championship at Mount Juliet in Ireland.

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