European Masters: Dredge takes first round lead

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Bradley Dredge began his title defense on Thursday by shooting a 5-under 66 to take the lead in the first round of the European Masters.

Updated: September 08, 2007 09:44 IST
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Bradley Dredge began his title defense on Thursday by shooting a 5-under 66 to take the lead in the first round of the European Masters.

Dredge led 52-year-old Eduardo Romero, Mikko Ilonen and Marcus Fraser by two strokes. All three shot 68s on the 6,857-yard course in the Swiss Alps.

Frost delayed the start by about 2 hours, and 44 players did not complete their rounds. They are scheduled to resume on Friday morning.

Dredge, a 34-year-old Welshman who won the European Masters by eight strokes last year, eagled the par-4 sixth hole, where his 120-yard wedge shot spun back into the hole.

"It seems to suit me here," Dredge said. "I managed to hole a lot of putts in the 10-to-12-foot range when I had to. I went through a round where I didn't waste a shot today. It's not often you can say that."

Dredge said he went through his usual slump in July and August.

"It's a bit disappointing to have those two months as historically bad months of majors and big events. But I seem to play well from here on in," Dredge said.

He now has a chance to become the first person since Seve Ballesteros in 1978 to defend his European Masters title.

"I'm just looking for a decent tournament. It's not often you win back-to-back," Dredge said.

Romero, the 1994 and 2000 champion, is playing for the 20th time and is looking confident.

"I am driving the ball fantastic," said the Argentine, who eagled the 519-yard 15th hole after a 3-iron from 240 yards landed two feet from the pin.

"I had other chances for birdies but 3 under in the opening round is perfect, especially in the afternoon in the wind and cold," Romero said. "It is difficult to read the line on the greens but it the same for everybody. But I'm playing good, fantastic."

Of the five members of this year's European Ryder Cup team who are in the tournament, Robert Karlsson had the best start with a 69. Paul Casey and Lee Westwood shot 71s, while Darren Clarke and David Howell both had 75s.

Tadd Fujikawa, the 16-year-old from Hawaii, did not finish his round. He was 5 over through 15 holes with three birdies and eight bogeys.

"He is doing fine," playing partner Sven Struever said of Fujikawa. "He has done quite well. Obviously he will learn. It's a different ball game than in America where you hit the ball high to the pins. That doesn't work on these greens."

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