Wednesday 19 September 2018

Dunne maintains fine form


Ireland's Paul Dunne. Photo: Craig Brough/Action Images via Reuters
Ireland's Paul Dunne. Photo: Craig Brough/Action Images via Reuters

At the home of golf, there are few players who look as comfortable. Fresh from his victory at last week’s British Masters, Paul Dunne made an impressive start to the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship with his round at St Andrews.

It was there two years ago that he became the first amateur in 88 years to take a 54-hole lead in the British Open and his final-round 78 did nothing to diminish his love for these links. “I have so many more good memories than bad,” Dunne said. “That week kind of set up my professional career.”

The 24-year-old is riding the wave of confidence from his first tournament win.

“Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday flew by quicker than normal,” Dunne said. “It felt good. It takes that little bit of pressure off when you’ve done it once.”

Back-to-back victories would haul Dunne into the world’s top 50 and then the professional doors would truly open.

There would be the majors, the WGCs, America if he wanted it.

Dunne could even leap into the top five of the Order of Merit, above Rory McIlroy. Few would have said there the possibility of that happening at the outset of 2017.

It was another frustrating day for the world No 6. There was the 360-yard drive on the par-four 18th that ended seven feet from the pin and elicited the day's biggest cheer. Alas, McIlroy missed the eagle putt.

It sums up his year and he is obviously well due his upcoming three-and-a-half-month break.

There's little chance of Dunne desiring any sort of rest after yesterday's five-under-par 67 at St Andrews to end the opening day in a share of the lead with Nicolas Colsaerts. Dunne added: "My game still feels good. I stood up on the first and I was still confident in my swing. It takes that bit of pressure off when you've done it once."

The 24-year-old shone on his front nine over the Old Course. He made birdie at the third and sixth and then holed from 22 feet for eagle at the ninth.

Further birdies followed at the 11th and 14th and, although there was a slip at the 17th - the notoriously difficult Road Hole - and a missed opportunity at the last, his round was still an accomplished one.

It made for a happy return to the 'Home of Golf', the scene of his impressive showing at the Open as an amateur in 2015.

On that occasion Dunne held a share of the lead after three rounds, but eventually fell away to finish in a tie for 30th.

Colsaerts recovered from his poor third hole by claiming birdies at four of the next five holes. Three more birdies on the back nine, including the 17th and 18th, made for a strong finish.

Five players were in a tie for third at four under, including defending champion Tyrell Hatton and Shane Lowry. Graeme McDowell shot 69, Gavin Moynihan 70 and Padraig Harrington 72.

Seamus Power carded a two-under round 70 at the opening day of the Safeway Open, his first event since winning his PGA Tour card back.

Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

Sky Sports Golf, 1.0

Safeway Open

Sky Sports Golf, 10.30

Irish Independent

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