It is very hard to accurately describe what we witnessed yesterday from Pádraig Harrington and Paul Dunne in St Andrews.
Harrington had seen it all before and though no doubt greatly encouraged by the way he finished his second round on Friday, you felt that he was still just making up the numbers over the weekend.
There is no doubting his experience. But there is no hiding either from the inconsistent form which has plagued him for the past six years.
That said, you can never fault Harrington’s character. Against all the odds, he has already proven all of us wrong when winning the Honda Classic but that remarkable achievement hasn’t fired him back towards the top of the world’s rankings.
With 10 missed cuts this year, Harrington wasn’t mentioned amongst the title contenders but the coolness of his performance yesterday suggests that the most decorated major champion at the top of the leaderboard may have a say in the final outcome.
St Andrews was there for the taking yesterday, in that the winds of Saturday had abated, leaving a soft and largely defenceless, course.
As an early starter, Harrington would have known he needed to throw caution to the wind, if you pardon the pun. In situations like this, you can not second guess yourself and thankfully the real Harrington emerged playing the type of golf which has already won him two Open championships. Though he will never admit it publicly, he has now found a key that hopefully will allow him to express himself fully.
That key is to ‘stay in the moment’.
Birdies and bogeys will always be a part of his game but as he proved definitively yesterday he is still more than capable of playing championship winning golf when it matters most.
And what of Paul Dunne?
I knew little about Dunne last week other than the fact he was competing successfully in collegiate golf in America and that he was a strong consideration for the Walker Cup team this year. But as good as amateurs undoubtedly are these days, there is a huge step up to professional golf.
The fact that he won the final qualifier for the Open at Walton Heath suggested he had a game but in shooting 66 yesterday — the lowest ever third round score by an amateur — he has now put himself in a realistic position to be the first amateur to win the Open Championship since the great Bobby Jones in 1930.
Regardless, of today’s outcome, no one can argue but that Ireland has once again produced a talent to follow in the footsteps of McIlroy and Lowry.
Yesterday’s round was flawless. Playing in the company of past winner Louis Oosthuizen, it was Dunne who looked the more composed for most of the day.
There would have been lots of distractions from family and friends to the pace of play. The standard of play would also have been distracting because Dunne would have known from the start that if he didn’t perform, he would tumble down the board.
But from the off, I was impressed by the way he first visualised what he wanted to do before staying in his routine to fully commit to each shot.
Never was this more evident than with his tee shot on the treacherous 17th hole.
At the time, he was leading the tournament and would have been forgiven for hitting it safely straight left, like many of the other leading lights.
True to himself, he executed a beautiful tee shot which found the fairway before setting up a great birdie opportunity on what was the most difficult hole on the course.
A 66 has now guaranteed him one of the greatest occasions the Greystones man will ever experience in his career as today he will stride down the fairway in the last round of the Open Championship as the leading Irishman and someone more than capable of winning the tournament.
One would suspect that there is simply too much experience around him – too many hardened professionals like Day and Johnson also looking for their first victory in a major championship.
Either way, I expect Dunne to be himself and that is someone we should all be very proud of.
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