Welshman Bradley Dredge, without a European Tour win in 11 years, was the surprise leader on day one of the Qatar Masters on Thursday, posting an impressive eight-under-par 64.
Dredge blitzed the back nine, hitting five birdies—and squandered another opportunity on the 18th—to lead by one shot from Finland’s Mikko Korhonen, with former US Open champion Graeme McDowell a shot further back.
“Yeah, obviously delighted with score today,” said Dredge afterwards.
“A bit surprised, I thought I was going to hit the ball a bit better off the tee than I did, but I hit a few more fairways. I putted really well.”
In total he managed eight birdies and 10 pars.
Dredge’s last Tour win was at the 2006 European Masters.
Asked if Doha could be his first win in more than a decade, the 43-year-old replied: “I hope it is. You can’t win it in the first round but you can certainly be too far back to win it.”
On a course usually known for its windy conditions, the benign weather on day one allowed 85 players to post an under par score.
The relative calm was also exploited by Korhonen, who started with three birdies in the four first holes.
“I thought I would probably have a chance today because it’s definitely the most calm day I’ve seen here,” said the 36-year-old.
McDowell, who said before the tournament began that he was determined to regain the form that made him a Major winner, was the leader for the early part of the day. A bogey at the par four sixth added a blemish to his card, but the Northern Irishman was more than satisfied with his 66.
“Yeah, very happy with that,” he said.
“Even though conditions were benign you’ve got to go out there and play the golf and take advantage, and thankfully (I) managed to do that this morning.”
Pre-tournament favourite and world number 10, Sweden’s Alex Noren, recovered from a stuttering start to post a four-under 68, the same score as South Africa’s Ernie Els and Ryder Cup 2018 captain, Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn.
“I didn’t really play that well on the front nine,” said Noren, who went out in par.
“I started to hit some better shots on the back nine, getting a little bit closer… really happy with the back nine.”
Less happy thought was Tommy Fleetwood, the Abu Dhabi championship winner last week.—AFP