Thursday 19 April 2018

Paul Dunne hits PGA ground running to move within three shots of leaders

'Starting on the 10th hole of Torrey Pines' south course, Dunne hardly put a ball out of place on his front nine'
'Starting on the 10th hole of Torrey Pines' south course, Dunne hardly put a ball out of place on his front nine'

Phil Casey

Paul Dunne doesn't do stage fright. The 23-year-old from Greystones looked at home on his PGA Tour debut as he carded an impressively steady three-under-par 69 in the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open.

Starting on the 10th hole of Torrey Pines' south course, Dunne hardly put a ball out of place on his front nine. Back-to-back birdies on his fifth and sixth holes got Dunne's round off to a flying start. His aggressive approach shots left him with putts of 12 inches and three feet for his birdies as he moved into contention for the early lead of the star-studded event. A birdie four on the par-five 18, his ninth, put him briefly within one shot of the pace-setters.

After a fourth birdie on 12, he carded his only blemish of the round on the 13th, when he missed a three-foot putt for a par.

However, he held his nerve over the closing holes, including a seven-foot par save at the last, to sit three shots off the early over night leaders Scott Brown and Andrew Loupe.

Defending champion Jason Day had to settle for a level-par round of 72 but he was still finding his feet after recovering from a virus. Rickie Fowler, fresh from his win in Abu Dhabi last week, was one shot further back after a 73.

Elsewhere, Paul Lawrie credited a putting tip from compatriot Marc Warren for getting him in pole position for a third victory in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.

The Scot's first win in Qatar came in 1999, the same year as his Open triumph at Carnoustie, with the second in 2012 helping him secure a Ryder Cup return at Medinah after an absence of 13 years.

The 47-year-old also won the Johnnie Walker Championship in 2012 and, although he has not tasted victory on the European Tour since, a second round of 66 at Doha Golf Club gave him the lead on 11 under par, one shot ahead of Nicolas Colsaerts.

"Marc Warren had a wee look at me when I missed the cut in Abu Dhabi and he said the same as everyone else," Lawrie explained. "My putting stroke is too long, it needs to be a little shorter and a little quicker, so I've been working on it the last couple days and it certainly feels as though I've got it.

"I hit a lot of putts when I missed the cut last week. All day Sunday I did a lot of work and then came here and I've hit thousands of putts since I got here. So it's only taken a couple days and it feels comfortable."

Colsaerts coped admirably with the tougher afternoon conditions, carding three birdies, an eagle and a solitary bogey to add a 68 to his opening 66.

England's Andrew Johnston, Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello and France's Gregory Bourdy are a shot further back, Bourdy's 68 featuring a hole-in-one on the eighth.

Sergio Garcia is one of five players a shot further back on eight under after adding a 66 to his opening 70 despite again missing a number of good birdie chances.

The world No 12 partially made amends by holing a curling putt from 40 feet on the eighth which drew some exuberant celebrations from the 36-year-old, who was asked if they were new dance moves by TV interviewer Nick Dougherty.

"Well, I don't know if they were dance moves. They were like jabs," Garcia joked. "When we got to the ninth tee I said to my caddie and to the guys that celebration I think is going to look a little bit funny on TV."

Michael Hoey and Paul McGinley missed the cut after respective second rounds of 77 and 73.

Commercial Bank Qatar Masters,

Live, Sky Sports 4, 6.30am/11.0

Farmers Insurance Open,

Live, Sky Sports 4, 8.0pm

Irish Independent

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