Dunne hoping to get Bjorn nod for Ryder rehearsal
Paul Dunne is hoping for an early birthday present from European Ryder Cup skipper Thomas Bjorn in Hong Kong today.
While a win in the $2m UBS Hong Kong Open on Sunday would be the perfect way to celebrate his 25th, the Greystones star would be delighted if the Dane names him in the 12-man team that will defend the EurAsia Cup at Glenmarie Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur from January 10-12.
Bjorn must add two wildcards to join the leading 10 'available' European players from the final Race to Dubai standings when he reveals his side today.
And, while Dunne was 16th in the final Race to Dubai rankings last Sunday (and the 14th-ranked European), the likely unavailability of Major winners Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson means he's a virtual certainty to get the nod for a trip to Malaysia.
The biennial event traditionally gives the European captain a chance to see some potential Ryder Cup rookies in matchplay combat, and Dunne is unquestionably one of Europe's rising stars.
Now ranked No 77 in the world, Dunne's one-stroke win over McIlroy in last month's British Masters marks him out as a potential Ryder Cup debutant at Le Golf National in Paris next year.
"The season has been fantastic. Getting my first win was a big step and gives me a lot of confidence," said Dunne, who is fifth in the European Ryder Cup rankings.
"It has been a year where I have achieved what I wanted and more, but I still feel there is more in there. It's a great building block."
There's an eternity to go before the team for Paris is settled but Dunne can improve his chances by moving closer to his goal of breaking into the world's top 50 with a victory in Hong Kong.
A second title of the year would mean beating the likes of Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood and Ryder Cup players Rose, Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello.
Given the emotional highs and lows they went through in Dubai, Rose and Fleetwood may find it hard to get up for another fight.
Dunne should be highly motivated to finish the year on a high.
Irish golf already has two Hong Kong winners in Pádraig Harrington (2004) and McIlroy (2011).
And Dunne could not have a better draw as he bids to join that exclusive club as he tees it up with four-time champion Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who was joint second with Shane Lowry in Dubai last Sunday.
As new European No 1 Fleetwood pointed out, winning in Hong Kong is all about strategy and control, and Dunne has the short game to make hay.
As some of Bjorn's potential Ryder Cup stars do battle in Hong Kong, World No 2 Jordan Spieth defends his Emirates Australian Open title at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney.
The American must win to keep alive his hopes of ending the year as World No 1.
And he will have to do it with his coach Cameron McCormick on his bag as regular caddie Michael Grellar has just become a father.
"Cam's more 'just shut up and hit it, quit taking so long','" said Spieth, who will be keeping a watchful eye on Australian rival Jason Day's progress.
"He's more (about) reaction, pick the club. It'll be fun talking through clubs with him. Cam has the highest golf IQ of anyone I've ever talked to. I've learned so much from him in the last 10-11 years."
UBS Hong Kong Open, Live, Sky Sports Golf, 6.0am