Saturday 21 October 2017

Dunne hails 'step in right direction' after play-off woe

Greystones man falls short in bid for maiden title - but picks up €277,000

Paul Dunne reacts to missing a putt on the play-off hole. Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Paul Dunne reacts to missing a putt on the play-off hole. Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

William S Callahan

Paul Dunne must continue his quest for a maiden title on the European Tour after losing to Italy's Edoardo Molinari in a play-off at the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco.

However, he'll take home a cheque for €277,000 for finishing second, which also means a nice payday for his temporary caddie Karl Holmes.

Molinari stormed into contention with two eagles in the last seven holes to set the clubhouse target of nine under par. Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Molinari stormed into contention with two eagles in the last seven holes to set the clubhouse target of nine under par. Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

The Greystones man stepped in to carry his bag after regular caddie Darren Reynolds opted to skip this week's event, having suffered from food poisoning during last year's tournament.

Speaking after his defeat last night, Dunne rued some costly mistakes.

"I felt like there were just so many shots that slipped away from me. It's just one of those days," he said.

"I felt like I was really close to shooting four or five under and stuck with one under in the end.

"I'm happy with my form and looking forward to next week.

"I'm just a bit disappointed not to come out with the result we wanted but it's a step in the right direction."

Molinari stormed into contention with two eagles in the last seven holes to set the clubhouse target of nine under par, which Dunne was able to match with a birdie on the last.

The players returned to the 18th for sudden death and a scrappy par was good enough to give Molinari the win after Dunne found trouble off the tee and failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker.

Molinari's previous victories both came in 2010; the second, in the final qualifying event for the Ryder Cup, persuaded European captain Colin Montgomerie to give the former US Amateur champion a wild card for Celtic Manor.

A serious wrist injury meant Molinari played just 14 events in 2013 and, although he finished 40th on the money list the following year, he had to regain his playing rights via the qualifying school in 2015 and 2016.

"It's fantastic," the Italian said. "It's been a while. I've been through some very hard times in the last few years and to get this I'm very, very pleased.

Brilliant

"Last time I made a big putt on 17 and this time I made a big putt on 18 so it looks like I always want to keep it to the last few holes."

After starting the day four shots off the lead, Molinari covered the front nine in level par before following a birdie on the 11th with an eagle on the par-five 12th after a brilliant approach from 250 yards.

The 36-year-old's chance looked to have gone when he bogeyed the 16th after finding two bunkers on the tough par four, but he birdied the 17th from close range and holed from 20 feet for another eagle on the last in a superb 68.

Dunne held a two-shot lead overnight and was three clear after recovering from a bogey on the first with birdies on the second and fifth, but bogeyed the sixth and was never able to shake off the chasing pack.

The 24-year-old, who shared the 54-hole lead in the 2015 Open at St Andrews while still an amateur, carded two more birdies on the back nine but immediately followed each with a bogey.

Another dropped shot on the 16th left him needing to birdie one of the final two holes to catch Molinari, and a superb chip from the edge of the 18th green set up a tap-in for a closing 72. But he ultimately fell short.

Meanwhile, Shane Lowry was well off the pace at the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head after carding a final round 72 to leave him at two-under, while Graeme McDowell finished three shots ahead with his 70.

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