BRADLEY Dredge is today praying the "golfing gods" are with him as his quest for that first elusive European Tour success continues, writes Peter Shuttleworth & Josh Ball.

The 29-year-old tees-off in the Madrid Open at the Club de Campo at 1.50pm today - and the Blackwood golfer insists he'll "do all he can" to top off a cracking year in perfect fashion.

The Welshman, who has jumped from 72 to 27 on the Volvo Order of Merit, came heart-breakingly close to grabbing the win he so desperately wants at the Lancome Trophy in Paris earlier this month.

There he finished fifth and he picked up £24,000 in prize-money for his troubles - swelling his earnings to £440,000 this year.

Now Dredge is one of the favourites to win the £147,000 winners cheque at the Madrid Open, an event where he finished in the top 20 last year.

"I'm in very confident mood," said Newport-born Dredge.

"My form feels good and I will do everything I can to win this event. Last year I was never considered to be a favourite but now I am.

"It's been an amazing year but I want to win an event. I've got this competition then the Volvo Masters early next month left and I'll be pulling out all the stops for them - then there's the World Cup.

"But the key to success for me is to relax and enjoy my golf. I need to be with the leaders in the first three rounds and see what happens in the back nine of the final round on Sunday. I'll be hoping the golfing gods are with me.

"It has been a great year for me but I am desperate to round it off with my first Tour win."

Dredge, ranked 99 in the world, is battling for the title in the Spanish sun with South African Retief Goosen and Irishman Padraig Harrington.

Goosen, last year's event winner, is less than £30,000 ahead of Harrington in the order of merit, so this week's event could prove crucial in the run for the title.

While not challenging for the top spot, Dredge is also enjoying his most successful season on tour and his winnings are close to topping the £500,000 mark.

Dredge is due to tee-off at 1.50pm today alongside David Howell and Paul Casey.

Casey himself is considered a good outside bet for first place. If confidence alone won tournaments then Casey would win one a month, however he is still too headstrong, and regularly drops away toward the end of a tournament.

But his consistency suggests a growing maturity and he is one of several outsiders Dredge will have to better if he is to win.

* Meanwhile, Dredge's countrymen Phillip Price is bidding to win a place on next season's US Tour.

The Welsh Ryder Cup hero, who lives in the Newport suburb of Bassaleg, has made no secret of his desire to play in America and is competing in the preliminary event of the qualifying school at Red Wolf Run in Huffman in Texas.

But, for the second day running, bad weather prevented any play yesterday.