Wednesday 13 December 2017

'Rattled' Paul Dunne never got his shot at Open history off the ground

'Rattled' amateur star falls out of contention after nightmare start

Ireland’s Paul Dunne jumps in the air to see the fairway on the second hole after hitting after hitting his tee shot onto the practice green at St Andrews
Ireland’s Paul Dunne jumps in the air to see the fairway on the second hole after hitting after hitting his tee shot onto the practice green at St Andrews
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

The spirits of Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan brushed the young tyros Paul Dunne and Jordan Spieth with a gossamer touch before returning to their rightful place in the shadows with their legendary status in the history of golf still secure.

Dunne (22) and Spieth (22 next week) came to the first tee on the Old Course at St Andrews yesterday ready, to emulate the great amateur Jones and the flinty-eyed Hogan at the Home of Golf.

Similar in stature and build, well schooled in fitness, diet, nutrition, preparation and work ethic, Dunne and Spieth epitomise the modern breed of young golfers who ask 'why not?' instead of 'who, me?' and see no obstacles to achievement.

A joint third-round leader of the Open, the first amateur since Bobby Jones to head the championship leaderboard after 54 holes, Dunne was in the final group with Louis Oosthuizen.


Back in 1927, three years before he claimed the 'Impregnable Quadrilateral' of US and British Amateur and Professional Opens, Jones launched himself to victory at St Andrews from the platform of the third-round lead.

Outside the Dunne family circle, some dared to dream of ultimate glory. Perhaps. . . just maybe. . . he got a fast start, who knows?

Spieth has taken the world of professional golf by storm this year, annexing the Masters and the US Open before coming to St Andrews with a plan to add the Claret Jug to his collection.

Both had numbers in their minds for each round over the course of this marathon Open, but in each case, they fell short yesterday.

You can imagine Jones smiling and applauding Dunne's efforts but saying: "Not just yet, Paul, not just yet."

Hogan? He would possibly snort derisively and even to a fellow Texan, say: "Ya gotta pay more dues, kid, but good try."

And so it was in each case that these young men ended their debut at St Andrews disappointed.

Dunne started nervously with bogey on the first, and an adventurous bogey on the par-four second where he drove his first ball so far right that it crossed the spectator pathway and landed on the putting green in front of the New Course clubhouse.

The Greystones golfer was left with a 160-yard blind shot which he executed well but had to accept another bogey.

He was got battling birdies on the third and fifth, but by the 12th hole, he knew the challenge was all but evaporated and he closed with a six-over-par 78 for six-under-par 282.

It was tough to take after his first three rounds of 69, 69, 66 for Dunne, who enjoyed massive support among the galleries from Greystones club members and Irish golf fans.

"I just never really got settled into the round," he lamented. "I got off to a bit of a rough start and didn't make my score on the front nine and threw away some shots on the back nine.

"I wasn't too bad starting. I just hit three wedge shots fat and one thin. I didn't see those shots in my game or in practice before today.

"I don't think I've done that ever. I don't know where that came from.

"It kind of surprised me on the first. After I hit that second shot it rattled me a little bit and I never got settled after that."

Inevitably, pressure and also, as Graeme McDowell pointed out earlier, the championship pins on the course raised the ante, and a strong wind on the back nine with intermittent showers affected all the players.

Immediately after the round, context was difficult for Dunne, but if he had been told last week that he would be joint leader after three rounds, what would he have said?

"I probably wouldn't have believed you. Yeah, it was great," he said. "The first three days were brilliant. I'm just still in disappointment from today, but yeah, what an experience.

"The crowds have been absolutely brilliant. So yeah, a big thank you to them. Thanks for everyone who came over to support, and hopefully I can be back some time soon."

Today his schedule takes him to Royal Lytham & St Annes for a Walker Cup practice session, then he has ten days off to consider his future.

McDowell, who shot 70 yesterday for six-under overall, believes Dunne should not delay in turning professional.

"I don't really know why he needs to wait for the Walker Cup," said the Ulsterman.

"Listen, the Walker Cup is one of fondest memories of my career, but it means nothing as soon as you press the professional button.

"He'd have an opportunity between now and the end of the season to possibly get his European Tour card, and those extra five, six, seven weeks could be beneficial to him.

"The Walker Cup of course is very special. It's a tough call."

Padraig Harrington disagreed with those sentiments.

"You know, he can be a pro all his life. The Walker Cup opportunity doesn't comes around very often. I think, golf in the Walker Cup and turn pro then," he said.

Dunne will consider his options carefully.

"I haven't really been thinking about it. I've got to go tomorrow morning to a Walker Cup practice session at Lytham, so I'll just think about it for the next few days and make a decision, but right now nothing concrete," he said.

Dunne's 78 also knocked him out of the race for the Silver Medal, awarded to the leading amateur player in the Open. Instead, he has to settle for huge exposure and an amazing learning curve that will serve him well in the years to come.

The Silver Medal went to Jordan Niebrugge, who said: "That means the world to me. It's definitely a dream come true to win the Silver Medal at St Andrews."

Irish Independent

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