Sport Golf

Saturday 24 March 2018

Paul Dunne receives seal of approval from Padraig Harrington

Paul Dunne on practise day for the Joburg Open in South Africa (Getty)
Paul Dunne on practise day for the Joburg Open in South Africa (Getty)
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Pádraig Harrington is a great believer in the 'M' word when rookie professionals embark on their Tour career

That's 'M' for momentum, and yesterday's performance by Paul Dunne in shooting 63 on day two of the Joburg Open suggests that the Greystones player has the wind in his sails.

In Harrington's view, the early rounds and tournaments are crucially important to any young professional.

"The most important thing for anybody turning pro is momentum," he said. "It doesn't matter how good a player you are, the better the start you get, the more at home you feel, the better you'll do as a pro.

"Guys who are average players who start well, will do better than a guy who is great and starts badly. The start is everything."

This week marks the effective start of 2016 for Dunne who clinched his playing rights at Tour School back in November.

Illness caused him to pull out of the BMW SA Open last Thursday week, so he had to wait a week to hit the fairways for real in South Africa.

After two rounds, it was a case of 'so far, so good' for the former Walker Cup-winning team member.


He opened with 71 on the tough East Course at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington GC on Thursday, and took advantage of the more generous nature of the West course yesterday for a bogey free, eight-under-par score of 63.

At nine-under-par overall, Dunne placed himself in the upper tier of the field and tied for eighth place as they enter the weekend with two rounds to play on the East Course.

Time will tell over the next few months if Dunne can maintain forward progress, making cuts and earning decent amounts of money to ascend the Race To Dubai rankings list.

From Pádraig Harrington's perspective, the early signs are positive, as he outlined when I asked him recently what he thought of Dunne.

"He seems like the real deal, but that's coming off the back of him already competing very successfully in professional events.

"That's a huge bonus for him. He's going out there and thinking, 'Well, I've done this already, I was close'," said Harrington.

The question then arose about Dunne playing in the last group on the final day of the 2015 Open Championship at St Andrews.

Would that affect the player for better or worse in terms of the demands he might make on himself, or pressure from outside his camp?


Harrington's response was: "That could damage another player. It's not a set rule for everybody, but another player, the expectations could kill him.

"I've played a few holes with him (Dunne) and I really like what I see. He looks like he feels that he belongs, he looks like he's comfortable on Tour, so he should do very nicely because of that."

The three-time Major winner was not alluding to a zone of casual comfort, but a genuine feeling of belonging among the stars of the European Tour.

"How comfortable are they? How do they react out there? Do they think they belong?

"When you see a guy love it, and mixing nicely, and very comfortable in the environment, you know a guy is going to do well," said Harrington.

Dunne was joined in the third round of the Joburg Open by fellow Irish players Kevin Phelan and Michael Hoey.

Phelan and Hoey made the cut on the mark at three-under-par, scoring 72 (East) and 69 (West) respectively.

Ruaidhri McGee missed out with 76 for four-over.

In Hawaii, Harrington had to focus on his own game at the Sony Open after his first round 66, four-under-par.

Graeme McDowell needed an improvement after his opening level-par 70.

Joburg Open, Live, Sky Sports 4, 10.30am

Sony Open, Live, Sky Sports 4, Midnight

EurAsia Cup, Live, Sky Sports 4, 1.30am

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