Impressive Paul Dunne faces wrath of Rahm in Madrid
Paul Dunne held off a charging Rory McIlroy to win his maiden European Tour title six months ago.
Now he faces a weekend onslaught from another superstar in Jon Rahm after a seven-under 65 gave him a four-shot cushion over the big-hitting Basque and a three-stroke lead over the field at the halfway stage of the Spanish Open.
Dunne won the British Masters by three shots from McIlroy last October. But given his brilliance over the first two days at the rain-softened Centro Nacional de Golf in Madrid, he's hoping to give himself a chance of a second European Tour win that could catapult him as high as 56th in the world.
"It was just one of those days, I just went on playing," said Dunne, who took up where he left off after Thursday's 66, carding nine birdies and two bogeys in an early morning 65.
"I wasn't really thinking about the score and then the score kind of built on itself," he added.
The Greystones man (25) took advantage of the short, rain-softened course and preferred lies to make four birdies in an outward 32 before cancelling out two bogeys with five more birdies on the way home.
Leading by three shots on 13-under par from Spain's Nacho Elvira, Australia's Brett Rumford and England's Callum Shinkwin, he's looking to the weekend with confidence following back-to-back top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour recently.
"I'm feeling good, feel confident around this course so hopefully (I'll shoot) a couple of more good rounds and give myself a chance," Dunne said after finishing his day by curling in a 20-footer for a birdie two at the ninth.
"I think it's been trending the right way for a while and I've got a nice run of events in Europe over the next few weeks, so I'm looking forward to that, and hopefully I can keep doing what I'm doing," he explained.
Rahm almost holed a six-iron for an albatross at the par-five 18th but, despite the frustration of clipping the flag and then missing a six-footer for eagle, a 68 means he's lurking just four shots behind Dunne on nine-under.
"It's a little bittersweet just because my ball-striking felt amazing - 17 greens, most of the fairways, as long as I was hitting it, it's hard to hit it better," said Rahm (23), who's tied for fifth with England's Robert Rock, Scot Marc Warren and Swede Henric Sturehead.
Huge crowds have turned out to watch Rahm in action and he's hoping to give them something to cheer about tomorrow.
"I can't even imagine if I play good and I'm in the final group, the amount of people we're going to have on Sunday," Rahm said. "It's almost scary to think about it."
If Rahm and Dunne are flying high, Mount Juliet's Gavin Moynihan is trying hard to remain patient after a 74 saw him miss the four-under-par cut by six strokes, extending his run of missed cuts to eight in a row.
On the PGA Tour, England's Ian Poulter shot a seven-under 64 and South Korea's Si Woo Kim a 65 that included a triple bogey to claim the clubhouse lead in the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links.
They were one ahead of Chesson Hadley and Brandt Snedeker on nine-under-par in Hilton Head, where Graeme McDowell was among the late starters on two-over par.
On the Challenge Tour, it was a week to forget for Michael Hoey and Cormac Sharvin as they missed the three-over par cut by 11 strokes in the wind-affected Belt and Road Colourful Yunnan Open in China.
Five-time European Tour winner Hoey (39) added a 75 to his opening 81 and was joined on 14-over par by Ardglass' Sharvin (25) who shot 80 as Finland's Kim Koivu posted a six-under 65 to lead by two strokes on seven-under-par from England's Jack Senior and Scotland's Scott Henry.
In amateur golf, Sweden's Kajsa Arwefjall opened with a two-under 69 to lead the 54-hole Irish Girls' Open Stroke Play Championship by a stroke at Roganstown Golf and Country Club (see factfile for results).
Nicole Joyce-Moreno is the best of home contingent after a level-par 71, with Castlwarden's Lauren Walsh tied 21st after a 73.
"I got off to a shaky start with the double on the third, but I played nicely from there," said Walsh.
"A lot of putts just didn't drop for me out there so the score could have been much better but hopefully they'll drop tomorrow."
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