Opportunity knocks for rookie Paul Dunne

Ireland’s Paul Dunne is hoping to make himself a regular fixture on the PGA Tour as he prepares for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines this weekend.

Dunne will make his PGA Tour debut this evening in the €6 million event.

Dunne hit the headlines last summer when he became the first amateur since 1927 to share the lead of the Open Championship after 54 holes, before eventually finishing 30th at St Andrews.

The 23-year-old went on to gain his European Tour card via the qualifying school in November but is taking advantage of a gap in his schedule to play in the United States, where he attended the same college as former US Open champion Graeme McDowell.

“I’m very excited to make my PGA Tour debut this week and spend a few weeks in California,” said Dunne, who turned professional after helping Great Britain and Ireland to a record Walker Cup win.

“When I was playing in college I was always striving to turn pro and play golf on a professional tour and I was excited to get my European Tour card back in November. And now I have a few weeks off the European Tour, I’m really excited to see what the PGA Tour has to offer.

“Category 16 status on the European Tour is for Q-School graduates, so it doesn’t get you in every event. When I was looking at the schedule I knew I had the first couple of events in South Africa (he finished ninth in the Joburg Open) and then my category wouldn’t get me into the events in the desert swing.

“So I knew I had a good break in tournaments and then we just sought places to play and looked to America. We were lucky enough to get invites over here.

“Obviously the overall goal for me would be to end up on the PGA Tour so any exposure I can get to that early is great.

“In terms of goals for the week, I kind of set my goals at the start of the year to just try and improve every day. Get better each week and let results take care of themselves. So I’m just going to keep working on my game and hopefully I put some good scores together.”

World number two Jason Day is a doubt for the defence of his title at Torrey Pines after being laid low by a virus.

Day pulled out of the pre-tournament pro-am but hopes to be fit enough today to play the opening round.

New world number four Rickie Fowler is also at Torrey Pines after making the 17-hour journey from Abu Dhabi, having won his second European Tour title on Sunday.

Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose are also competing.

Meanwhile, Paul McGinley says Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke won’t need any advice or tips ahead of September’s showdown at Hazeltine.

Speaking in Doha, where he shot a level par opening round in the Qatar Masters, the former Ryder Cup captain played down any influence he might have over his successor in the job.

“No Darren doesn’t need any tips from me,” said McGinley.

“It does seem he’s going to have a very strong side with the likes of Rory (McIlroy), Henrik (Stenson) and Justin (Rose) again being the back-bone of the side but with a lot of young guys who will be pushing hard for selection.

“We saw how well some of the rookies performed in Malaysia for the EurAsia Cup so it looks like they will be stepping up to the selection plate.

“So the Europeans already look like they are going to be very strong and the Americans are clearly going to have their hands full.” Given Europe’s dominance in having won eight of the past 10 Ryder Cups, McGinley was asked a Team USA win might be good for the competition.

“Definitely no,” he said smiling.

“The Americans have still won more than half of the Ryder Cups played so we’ve had enough losses over the history of the event.” Michael Hoey, the only other Irish player in the Doha field, was delighted with a first bogey-free round of the New Year on the opening day’s play. Hoey carded a four under par 68 in bright but windy conditions to be just three shots adrift of the leading duo of South African Louis Oosthuizen and Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal.

“I’ve not had a bogey-free round in my two events this year, so I’m very pleased,” he said.

“I hit a lot of fairways and then managed to get it onto the greens on all but one occasion so I was giving myself a lot of chances. Overall it was pretty solid round of golf.”


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