x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Welsh players hoping for cup spot

Dredge is the probable front-runner to represent the host country in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor after shining at the Qatar Masters.

Bradley Dredge drives during the Qatar Masters in Doha, where he finished tied for fifth.
Bradley Dredge drives during the Qatar Masters in Doha, where he finished tied for fifth.

Fitting though it would undoubtedly be for a Welshman to fly the home flag against the US when the Ryder Cup breaks new ground at the end of September, those in the running to do so are fearing that they may be part of an impossible dream. Bradley Dredge is the best placed of a small band of Welsh professionals to earn one of the privileged 12 places in Colin Montgomerie's Europe team seeking to wrest back golf's most coveted team trophy from Corey Pavin's United States visitors. But he acknowledged it is going to be a tall order.

Looking at the of list illustrious names ahead of them in the pecking order, Dredge and his compatriots Stephen Dodd and Rhys Davies, all of whom briefly caught the eye in the recent Desert Swing tournaments, will struggle to be part of that emotional autumn date with the Celtic Manor galleries. Dredge, who came nearest on his Middle East trip to putting down a Welsh marker for the biennial clash with the Americans, having led at the halfway stage of the Qatar Masters before finishing in a tie for fifth place behind Sweden's Robert Karlsson, promised to fight all the way.

"Staging the Ryder Cup in Wales makes it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all of the Welsh guys, not just myself," said Dredge, who occupies 17th position on the European points list which will determine five of the selections for the team. "We all know we are onlygoing to get this one chance to play against the Americans on home soil so I am determined to perform to the best of my ability all year to give myself that chance.

"Obviously to have Ryder Cup aspirations I need to be winning tournaments and to be doing well in the ones that carry the large number of world ranking points. That's why I was particularly keen to hang on in Doha." Dodd, who got himself into similarly strong position in the Dubai Desert Classic before fading over the last two rounds, did not pull any punches with his assessment of his chances of rising rapidly from 87th on that list.

In a frustrating decline he fell from joint leader to a finishing position of 51st at the Emirates Course. "It's very important that we get someone in the team on our own territory but we've all got to improve a bit. If we don't we are not going to be there - it's as simple as that," he said. "I haven't spoken to any of the other Welsh guys about it. I've got my agenda and a list of goals I'm aiming for and obviously they've got theirs.

"But the immediate future is my concern. Anything that happens in eight or nine months time will be a bonus." The hopeful Welsh foursome - Jamie Donaldson is their other aspiring Ryder Cup debutant - know that they cannot expect any assistance from European captain Montgomerie in their battle for a call-up. Asked whether he thought Monty may be earmarking one of his three captain's wildcards to a token Welshman, Dredge was dismissive.

"I don't think there is a great deal of room for sentiment in an event as important as this," he said. "We can't expect Monty to include a Welsh player just for the sake of it. I think he is going to be looking for experience in allocating his wild cards, so even if I was very close to making the team I think I would still have to get in on merit, rather than hope for a captain's pick. "You know well in advance who are going to be the mainstays of the team.

"And we all have to realise that the captain has to keep his wild cards back just in case any of the big names don't make it on their own." @Email:wjohnson@thenational.ae