Date: September 07, 2007

Fraser two shots adrift

Wales&apos Bradley Dredge made the perfect start to the defence of his title in the weather-affected Omega European Masters in Switzerland. After a two-hour delay due to overnight frost, Dredge carded a five-under-par 66 to take the clubhouse lead by two shots over Scandinavian Masters winner Mikko Ilonen and Australian Marcus Fraser. Brett Rumsford is the next best Aussie on two under the card but still has six holes to play after being forced from the course when the bad weather set in. But it was a tough day at the office for the Aussies overall with Fraser and Rusford the only two to break par. Peter O&aposMalley and Wayde Ormsby are at two and three over the card respectively while Matthew Millar and Terry Price are both at four over. Sweden&aposs Robert Karlsson was a shot further back on two under after a 69, easily the best placed of the five members of last year&aposs Ryder Cup team competing in the first qualifying event for next year&aposs contest at Valhalla. Playing partners Darren Clarke and David Howell both struggled to rounds of 75, four over par, while Lee Westwood and Paul Casey were among the later starters battling to complete their rounds before dark. Both were two over par with five to play. Dredge finished second twice in the space of three weeks earlier this season – losing a play-off for the Irish Open to Padraig Harrington and then being pipped by a shot to the Wales Open – but had missed the cut in four of his last six events. Dredge currently lies 26th on the Order of Merit and 62nd in the world rankings, and is looking to move into the top 20 and top 50 on those lists respectively by the end of the season. And the 2005 World Cup winner – who has again chosen Stephen Dodd as his partner for this year&aposs two-man team event in China in November – also has his sights set on regaining his place in the Great Britain and Ireland side to defend the Seve Trophy against Continental Europe at the end of the month. “I&aposm in the penultimate qualifying position and I want to play it again,” added Dredge, whose flawless round contained three birdies and an eagle two on the seventh, where he holed out from 120 yards. “It was great to play in the last one at The Wynyard and win.” Eight players qualify automatically from world ranking points and Order of Merit points, the former decided after this week&aposs event and the latter after next week&aposs Mercedes Benz Championship in Cologne. Non-playing captains Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros then add two wild cards. Ilonen is not close to making the European side despite winning twice this season, in Indonesia in February and Sweden last month. But he was still able to laugh off the loss of his luggage en route to Switzerland. “I still don&apost know where it is, hopefully I&aposll get it back by next week,” explained the former British amateur champion. “Luckily we are in a nice place with some good shops around and I&aposve been a very good customer to one of them already! I&aposm going to go back now and get some more socks and underwear. “I had a couple of pretty busy weeks after my win, did a fair bit of partying, but now I&aposm really happy to be back on the road again. It&aposs good to let go now and again. I&aposve had a couple of good results this year and hopefully I will have more to come.” Play was called off for the day at 8pm local time, leaving around 40 players to complete their first rounds on Friday. Westwood and Casey both managed to finish just in time, Westwood recovering from a double bogey on the 13th with consecutive birdies to return a 71. And Casey chipped in for eagle on the 17th before sprinting to the 18th to tee off before the siren sounded, therefore ensuring his group would be allowed to complete the hole. His approach to the green clattered off the empty grandstands but he managed to save par to also record a 71. First Round of the Omega European Masters (par 71) -5 Bradley Dredge 66 -3 Marcus Fraser (Australia) 68, Mikko Ilonen 68, Eduardo Romero 68, Oliver Wilson (After 13) -2 Brett Rumford (Australia) (After 13), Phillip Archer 69, Rafael Echenique 69, Robert Karlsson 69, Carlos Rodiles 69, Zane Scotland 69 Also: E Michael Campbell 71, 2 Peter O&aposMalley (Australia) 73 3 Wade Ormsby (Australia) 74 4 Steve Alker 75, Matthew Millar (Australia) 75, Terry Price (Australia) (After 13) 8 Matthew Zions (Australia) 80 10 Andrew Tampion (Australia) (After 13)