Pairing make progress behind Nilsson

Welshman Bradley Dredge and England’s Paul Broadhurst fed off each other and led the pursuit of Swede Christian Nilsson when the Italian Open began in Milan today.

Welshman Bradley Dredge and England’s Paul Broadhurst fed off each other and led the pursuit of Swede Christian Nilsson when the Italian Open began in Milan today.

Nilsson, who squeezed into the field thanks to his 149th place on last year’s Order of Merit, had five birdies in his first eight holes and turned in just 31 strokes.

But, paired together, Dredge and Broadhurst were only two behind and sharing second place.

Dredge is still seeking his first top 10 finish of what has been a disappointing season so far, but he birdied the 10th, 12th and long 15th.

Broadhurst’s 2008 story to date is a similar one – 11th in China two weeks ago was the high point – but his birdies on the 11th, 13th and 15th hinted at a real return to form.

This week’s tournament was a golden opportunity for the pair, of course, with nearly all the European Tour’s biggest names away at the Players Championship in America.

Defending champion Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano was only a stroke further back after six holes and in the group alongside him was American John Daly after birdies on the 14th and 15th.

Not going so well, though, was 1996 winner Jim Payne, now club professional at Southport and Ainsdale.

Having decided to make what he thinks could be his final Tour appearance – he qualifies as a past champion – Payne followed two opening bogeys with a double-bogey six on the 469-yard third and was bringing up the rear of the field.

Nick Dougherty was among the later starters, not sure whether he would score “67 or 87” just days after the funeral of his mother Ennis, who died of a heart attack on April 27.

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