FORMER World Cup winner Bradley Dredge produced a brilliant finish to take command of the inaugural Made in Denmark event at the halfway stage yesterday.
The Welshman has won twice on the European Tour – he shot a round of 60 on his way to victory in Madeira in 2003 – and partnered Stephen Dodd to victory for Wales in 2005, but has been hampered by illness and injury recently.
The 41-year-old is playing on a medical exemption this season, but added a 68 to his opening 66 at Himmerland Resort & Spa, thanks to four birdies in his last six holes.
At eight under par, Dredge led by four shots from England’s Simon Wakefield, with Danish pair Thomas Bjorn and Thorbjorn Olesen another shot back alongside Scotland’s David Drysdale and former Amateur champion Garrick Porteous.
Bjorn was frustrated at following his opening 66 with a 73, the 43-year-old feeling players did not have enough notice of play resuming after a one-hour delay caused by the threat of lightning.
“It was down to fatigue a little bit, playing seven out of eight weeks,” said Bjorn, who is looking to make certain of his Ryder Cup place on home soil. “The brain wasn’t quite with it today. You have to just take it for what it is. I’m still in the golf tournament and I have to work from here.
“The delay shouldn’t affect you, [but] I thought we were a bit quick to come back on. You are sitting in the players’ lounge and you get half an hour to restart and you are on the eighth tee, which is in a different county in this resort.
“I thought it was a bit quick so we got stressed about that. I had a bad drive on nine, but it was mostly down to putting today, which you can’t blame that on the delay. You need to hole putts to be in contention and I couldn’t do that today. If I can get it working and stay patient then it is still a good opportunity.”
Wakefield is ranked 611th in the world and has yet to win a European Tour title in 333 attempts, but the 40-year-old carded a second round of 67 as playing partner and world number 1,160 Garrick Porteous returned a 68.
“I was on holiday last week and, on Sunday, I tinkered with the driver, which was silly as it is probably the strongest club in my bag,” said Wakefield, who lost his card at the end of last season, but regained it via the qualifying school.
“I changed the settings on it and, on the 15th tee on Thursday, I realised the settings were wrong, so when I got in I changed it and obviously drove it a lot better today.
“I feel like I’ve played well this season. I missed [the cut] in Munich by one, French [Open] by one and the others by three. So I feel like my game is there. The last two weeks off were what I needed to recharge the batteries. I certainly needed that.”
Massive crowds followed Olesen’s group in the morning before switching their attention to Bjorn and the home players appreciated the excellent support.
“It’s like playing a major championship out here, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Olesen said. “It’s just incredible and gave me a big boost. I just tried to keep on going and it was a great feeling to be out there in front of those crowds.
“Before the tournament I definitely felt a bit more pressure, but I try to deal with it in the best way and play my best golf. You feel pressure, but you also get that extra boost and confidence.”
Dredge said: “I managed to play the back nine quite well and a birdie on the last is always nice. I’m delighted with the way I played. The wind wasn’t quite as strong and in a slightly different direction and I managed to make some putts.
“The chip in on 16 was nice and I think I took the chances when I had them.
“If someone had said I’ll give you a four-shot lead after 36 holes you would take it. We’re halfway through the tournament and I’ve been in similar positions to this before. I know a lot can happen and I’ve got to play really well over the weekend.
“There are some really good players chasing me so I have to keep playing the way I have been and convert the chances I get.
“I feel as though the European Tour events I’m playing in this year are like majors to me, with my situation. I know that, when I come out here, I have to play well and perform. I don’t know if that is added pressure, but it is certainly added motivation.
“I feel very motivated when I come out and play and I’m looking forward to this weekend. It will be a challenge. Hopefully I will play five out of six [events] coming up and if I can have a good weekend it will certainly help my cause.”