Friday 23 August 2019

'I feel like I'm fighting an uphill battle' - Ireland's Paul Dunne searching for 'spark' to hit ground running at Irish Open

Paul Dunne. Photo: John Dickson/Sportsfile
Paul Dunne. Photo: John Dickson/Sportsfile

Brian Keogh

Holding on to golf's gossamer thread of form is as tricky as finding it in the first place, but Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan believe it's within their grasp in this week's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch.

The 2015 Walker Cup duo are part of a 13-strong home challenge at the classic Co Clare links where they had played just one round between them until yesterday's sun-kissed opening practice day.

With the South of Ireland coming hot on the heels of the European Boys or Men's Team Championship, their first competitive rounds on the great links won't come until tomorrow.

But both are confident that the occasional flashes of form they've shown this year can be ignited on the ringing links turf that proved such a friend to them as amateurs.

"I have had some good finishes, a lot of mediocre stuff and more missed cuts than I would like," Dunne admitted. "But the signs are good. Two big weeks and it can hopefully improve."

The Greystones man (26) was third in the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth in February and tied fourth in Denmark in June. But while there have been too many mediocre weeks in what is a stop-start season for players ranked outside the world's top 50, he can feel it coming in his bones.

Bolt

"As long as I win by the end of the year, it doesn't matter," he said with a grin, explaining that good form does not come like a bolt from the blue but bubbles up gradually inside.

"Can one shot turn it around? Yeah, but you have to be pushing it, getting close to it for that to happen," said Dunne, who is 81st in the Race to Dubai compared to 42nd a year ago.

"Then some feeling sparks off a bit of confidence; a feeling you can take into every shot. I don't think you go from hitting it all over the place to finding one thing and you are perfect."

He added: "I am just waiting for something to happen to give me a bit of momentum because I feel like every round if it's going along great, something happens which stalls everything.

"I feel like I'm fighting an uphill battle - you miss a couple of birdie chances, or you get a bad break at the wrong time. But a good result is close, I think. The challenge for me is keeping the ball in play when it gets windy. That will usually determine my weeks."

If Dunne is hoping for light winds, links specialist Moynihan (24) is praying that it blows a hooley and having made the field on his category, freeing up his Sport Ireland invitation for Tramore's Robin Dawson, he can count any cash he earns in the Race to Dubai, where he is a lowly 141st.

"I love links golf," the Portrane man said. "One or two good weeks and you are laughing. It looks like the weather will be favourable and to be honest. I wish it was blowing 40mph. Half the guys would be gone straight away."

He played the course with fellow Island man Paul McBride, who prequalified on Sunday, and another former Walker Cup team-mate in Cormac Sharvin some eight weeks ago and found the transformation astounding on his arrival yesterday.

"It's in some shape," he said. "And the rough has shot up."

Shooting up the Race to Dubai is Moynihan's next goal and bar a top-10 finish here, he won't make the Scottish Open field on his ranking next week and hopes to get his season well and truly going on terrain that suits him.

He knows his game is built for links terrain and not "a 7,500-yard open track," and proved it in the 2017 Irish Open at Portstewart, where he closed with a 64 and bank €84,506 for tied 14th.

It's the mental grind, not the game itself, that's the biggest challenge.

"In amateur golf, you're molly-coddled a bit," said Moynihan, who feels his "up and down" form is not a true reflection of how close his game feels right now.

Irish Independent

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