Sport Golf

Sunday 22 September 2019

Dunne finding form at right time to impress Harrington

Caddy Ronan Flood and Pádraig Harrington ponder their next move during the opening round of the Turkish Airlines Open. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Caddy Ronan Flood and Pádraig Harrington ponder their next move during the opening round of the Turkish Airlines Open. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Paul Dunne doesn't feel ready for the Ryder Cup just yet but he will get a chance to show the likely 2020 captain and Europe's leading player his talents today after opening with a seven-under 64 to take a one-shot lead in the Turkish Airlines Open.

The Greystones star (25) will tee it up with Pádraig Harrington and world No 2 Justin Rose at the Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort feeling good about his game after his first "stress-free" round in months. He was invited to the Ryder Cup by European Tour boss Keith Pelley as one of Europe's potential stars of the future.

But while he knows he's not yet a Ryder Cup-standard player, he can take a giant step along that road this week.

After following six weeks of sublime play in the spring with weeks of summer struggles, he's regained his ball-striking prowess after a recent trip to see his US-based coach Eric Eshelman and looks like a man on a mission.

Curling

"To be honest, I just haven't been hitting the ball very well," Dunne said shortly after curling a slick 30-footer home for his seventh birdie of the day on his final hole, the 500-yard par-four 10th.

"I just scrambled for par for three months really. It's nice to see a bit of form, post a good score and get a bogey-free round on the card."

While his 64 yesterday was his lowest round since he shot 64 on day one of the Houston Open in April, he still feels he has some way to go to be considered a Ryder Cup-standard player.

"I need to win more tournaments, pad the résumé," said Dunne, who was one of four potential Ryder Cup stars to accept Pelley's invitation.

"In terms of my game, I probably need to drive the ball better, more consistently. Turn a weakness into an asset. I picked up 20 yards of length this year, which turns my driving into an asset when I'm swinging it well. I just need to do it more consistently."

He's a big admirer of Harrington's - "thorough" was his one-word description - and presuming the Dubliner gets the job at Whistling Straits, he sees him doing a great job,

"If that team doesn't win, I don't think it will be his fault," said Dunne. "I think he will put everything into it.

"He is still very competitive - there he is, at six-under. He still wants to win himself and compete with everyone he might be picking for the team, assuming he gets it."

Harrington has nothing left to prove as a player though he did crack a joke at his own expense in light of the constant Ryder Cup captaincy speculation.

Asked what another win might mean to him, he said: "There's nothing that really changes my legacy in the game... Maybe winning a Ryder Cup as a captain, that might help (laughter) …"

While he was initially disappointed only to miss a short putt at the last and shoot a six-under 65 after playing his first five holes in four-under, Harrington was quietly pleased with his start.

He is 89th in the Race to Dubai and desperate to make next week's Nedbank Challenge on merit and the top 60 who qualify for the final event in Dubai.

Shane Lowry birdied the last for a three-under 68 that did little justice to his ball-striking while defending champion Rose holed his approach at the par-four fourth hole for an eagle two on the way to a bogey-free 65 in an event he must win to go back to world No 1.

On the Challenge Tour, Sean Crocker fired a course record-equalling 64 at Al Hamra Golf Club to join Adri Arnaus on top of the Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final.

They lead by a shot on nine-under with Michael Hoey tied 34th on level-par after a 69 in an event where he may need a top-three finish to make the top 15 in the money list who will be awarded European Tour cards.

On the PGA Tour, Graeme McDowell shot a one under par 70 with five birdies and four bogeys to lie seven shots behind leader Peter Uihlein. Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau are three shots off the pace.

Turkish Airlines Open,

Live, Sky Sports, 9.0am

Shriners Hospitals Open,

Live, Sky Sports, 8.30pm

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