Thursday 19 October 2017

McIlroy on salvage mission as Dunne flies high

Rory McIlroy. Photo: PA
Rory McIlroy. Photo: PA
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Paul Dunne is on the crest of a wave but Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell find themselves at a career crossroads as they look towards the 2017-'18 campaign.

Dunne's victory in the British Masters came with a big bag of goodies, not least of which was the winner's cheque for €562,500.

His tied-seventh finish in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Sunday was worth €93,955, bringing Dunne's season earnings so far to €1,390,364. The Greystones golfer is now 80th in the world rankings - the second highest Irishman after Rory McIlroy (6) - and 13th in the Race to Dubai standings.

This is a breakthrough year for Dunne and it's not over yet. If he can stay fresh and focused, there are more big tournaments to plunder, starting with this week's $7 million Italian Open, one of the lucrative Rolex Series of tournaments on the schedule.

Rory McIlroy, unlike Dunne, is finished for 2017, and he intends to recalibrate his body, mind, and technique in anticipation of the challenges to come next year.

McIlroy did not get the victory he wanted to end a disappointing run by his high standards, one which yielded a first winless season since 2008.

He finished level-par on Sunday for tied-63rd place and gets ready to hang up the clubs in competitive fare until the New Year.

"Obviously I started the year with grand ambitions of trying to add to my Major tally, and trying to win golf tournaments, and get back up near the top of the World Rankings," said McIlroy.

"I obviously have not been able to do that, but I feel even though I haven't won and the results haven't been what I have wanted, I feel like I can still salvage something from the rest of the year."

The world and his wife knows, as does McIlroy, the areas that have let him down, although the disruption caused by the rib injury he suffered in January has undoubtedly affected his practice and his fitness training routine.

"I think there's a lot of areas of my game that need sharpening. Wedge play and putting would be the two main areas that I need to get better.

"I won't start hitting balls until the end of November, so really the next few weeks is just in the gym and rehab and getting my body right to be able to go into that practice and be able to start 2018 strongly," he said.

Shane Lowry has finished seventh in the British Masters and tied-25th in the Dunhill event in successive weeks, and he needs to keep on an upward track to round off the year on a positive note.

At the end of 2016, Lowry was 43rd in the world rankings, but is now placed 82nd.

The Offaly native plans to re-locate temporarily to Florida in 2018 to lessen the trans-Atlantic travel for events on the PGA Tour, but said: "My main goal between now and December is to get back into the top 50 in the world, and to do that I am going to have to play in Europe."

Graeme McDowell, who joins Dunne, Lowry, and Pádraig Harrington at the Italian Open this week, is also a work in progress.

The 2010 US Open champion is 141st in the world, and hopes to improve on that status before the end of the year.

Irish Independent

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