Paul Dunne may be starting his 2018 campaign on Thomas Bjorn’s European team at this weekend’s EurAsia Cup in Malaysia but the Irish star will not be fooled that he has one foot in the door for this year’s Ryder Cup.
The 25-year-old from Greystones in Co Wicklow is one of 12 European Tour winners on Ryder Cup skipper Bjorn’s team in Kuala Lumpur for the third staging of the biennial match-up with Asia, getting underway on Friday at the Glenmarie Golf and Country Club.
Dunne’s spectacular victory at the British Masters last October catapulted the Irishman into a European team alongside 2016 Open champion Henrik Stenson and European number one Tommy Fleetwood, led by Bjorn just eight months before the Danish star also captains Europe in the Ryder Cup in Paris.
Yet though he is one of 10 automatic qualifiers to face Asia, Dunne refused to consider this weekend’s Eurasia Cup as a Ryder Cup audition for the showdown with the Americans at Le Golf National in September.
“I think a lot of people make a big deal about it being a trial for the Ryder Cup but it’s not, really,” Dunne said.
“They don’t pick the Ryder Cup team, you have to qualify for it, so there’s a lot of good golf to be played between now and then for whoever makes the team.
“Hopefully, I can give myself some chances to win some tournaments and have a chance to make the team, come September.”
Dunne was speaking as the newly crowned Irish Golf Writers’ Association Professional of the Year at the annual awards, sponsored by Allianz, which took place just before Christmas at Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links.
It capped a wonderful 2017 that saw him start the year placed 275th in the official golf world rankings having ended 2016 by just retaining his European Tour card.
This week in Kuala Lumpur, he will step out on the range as the world number 75 after a breakthrough year that garnered five top-10s and a 16th-place finish on the order of merit, with almost €1.7m in prize money.
Winning one of the Tour’s most prestigious titles in brilliant fashion at Close House in north-east England also helped, Dunne finishing with rounds of 65 and 61 for a three-stroke victory over his countryman Rory McIlroy, sealed with a chip-in at the 72nd hole.
It was a win he thought changed people’s perception of him: from the plucky amateur who led the 2015 Open at St Andrews to a bona fide champion.
“It’s been great. I think when I first stepped out on Tour, people looked at me as the guy who led The Open and then fell away.
“In my head, I felt like I had that tag for a long time, so it’s nice to have the tag of a Tour winner now. I’m not someone who led a tournament but couldn’t win it.
“I’ve proven I am able to close the door on a tournament and it’s opened lots of doors for me. I’m getting into great events for this year, in The Open and a couple of WGCs, should be in the PGA Championship and first this EurAsia Cup team, which is fantastic.”
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