Dunne looks to catch eye in Malaysia
Paul Dunne will be gunning for his fifth international team matchplay victory and his first as a professional when he makes his debut for Europe in the biennial EurAsia Cup tomorrow.
The pride of Greystones (25) had a stellar record in team matchplay combat as an amateur, winning the Palmer Cup, the St Andrews Trophy and the Home Internationals in 2014 before helping Great Britain and Ireland to Walker Cup glory the following year.
This week's clash with Arjun Atwal's star-studded Asian team at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club in Kuala Lumpur represents another step up in class for the Wicklow star, who is the only Irishman in Thomas Bjorn's 12-strong team.
After a stellar 2017, the reigning British Masters champion is confident he can perform well when he steps on to the first tee for tomorrow's opening fourballs in steamy Malaysia.
"I was coming into the last half of the year with this being a big goal of mine to make the team, and so I'm delighted that I'm here and hopefully we can have a good week," Dunne said yesterday.
"I'm excited to play and happy with everybody on the team. Hopefully, we all play well and make it wins in all five international events."
While Europe drew 10-10 in the first EurAsia Cup in 2014, skipper Bjorn fears his side face a far tougher task than two years ago, when Shane Lowry was in the side that hammered Asia 18.5-5.5.
"We're very well aware that Asia has never fielded a stronger team than they do this time and golf is a strange game," Bjorn said of an Asian side led by Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat, China's Li Haotong and India's Anirbhan Lahiri and captained by Atwal, who has sought pal Tiger Woods's advice on managing different personalities and pairings.
"Whatever it says on paper very rarely comes out on top," Bjorn added. "So, those 12 players in that room are very aware that they have got to go out and play golf this week. This is not going to come to them easy, and they are up for it."
Europe are the red-hot favourites with world No 74 Dunne and 75th-ranked Frenchman Alexander Levy the only players on the team ranked outside the world's top 50.
They join Swedes Henrik Stenson (world No 9) and Alex Noren (19); England's Paul Casey (14), Tyrrell Hatton (17), Tommy Fleetwood (18), Matthew Fitzpatrick (29) and Ross Fisher (31); Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello (20); Belgium's Thomas Pieters (38) and Austria's Bernd Wiesberger (42) in a side that features several likely members of Bjorn's 2018 Ryder Cup team.
Dunne has dismissed the notion that the EurAsia Cup is a Ryder Cup trial but he's ready for the heat of matchplay combat after brushing off his winter rust in the desert last week.
"I spent the last week in Dubai," he said of his build-up to what promises to be a sticky week with six fourballs tomorrow and six foursomes on Saturday followed by 12 singles on Sunday.
"But I did four years of college in Alabama, so it's similar enough to this."
There are no Irish in action in the opening European Tour event of 2018, the BMW SA Open.
Qualifying School graduate Gavin Moynihan failed to get into the field and may now have to wait until next month's ISPS Handa World Super 6 in Perth or the NBO Oman Open to make his 2018 bow.
On the PGA Tour, West Waterford's Seamus Power tees it up for the first time in 2018 in the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Hawaii.
Subscribe to The Left Wing, Independent.ie's Rugby podcast, with Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery for the best discussion and analysis each week. From in depth interviews with some of Irish rugby's biggest stars to unmatched insights into the provinces and the national team, The Left Wing has all your rugby needs covered.