Paul Dunne managed to fight his way to a narrow points decision over the famed Old Course but the rookie professional could still face another career-defining day during tomorrow’s final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.
Dunne, who carded a round of 70, heads to today’s third round at Carnoustie sharing third place at 10-under par with three others, including 2014 Ryder Cup winning hero Jamie Donaldson, and just a shot behind the leading duo of fellow Walker Cup-winning colleague and rookie pro Jimmy Mullen (69) and his England compatriot Anthony Wall (68).
It is 66 days since Dunne last stood on the opening tee at the Home of Golf ahead of the disappointment of a final round 78 in golf’s oldest Major.
However, the 22-year old Greystones golfer showed quickly yesterday he was not about to be intimidated starting with a birdie after having commenced the last day of The Open by finding the Swilcan Burn for bogey and then also bogeying the second.
“I was not nervous even though I do get nervous over certain shots, like on the 14th and 17th tees today, but it’s more the shots that affect me rather than the situation I’m in,” he said.
“It’s just been nice this week to enjoy the whole town and when the university is in session, as it’s a lot busier when I’ve been here before, so it’s a cool atmosphere this week.
“I am sharing a room with Gary Hurley staying right in the middle of town, and we’ve been going to dinner and relaxing trying to stream up movies on the laptop.”
But what a movie script should Dunne succeed on Sunday, achieving a feat a European Tour statistician believes has never before been accomplished; winning on the European Tour in your very first event as a pro.
Graeme McDowell won in his fourth Tour event and while easing himself to within four shots of the lead with a 66 at Kingsbarns, and in an event where he has lost a play-off and also been placed third, he was full of praise for Dunne.
“Paul must be thinking professional golf is very easy, and they must be wondering what all the fuss is about,” said McDowell smiling.
“Maybe they are thinking they should have turned pro a little earlier but seriously it has been a very, very impressive display.
“Paul showed his maturity at the Open Championship hanging in there for three rounds that he did and continuing on from where he left off, so I am very proud of him and hope it continues.”
Ryder Cup Captain Darren Clarke capped a welcome return to form eagling the third and then also driving the green for eagle at the downhill par four sixth in a round of 68 at Kingbarns for a five under par tally.
Peter Lawrie (73) is a shot further back and in turn a shot ahead of good friend Damien McGrane (71).
However Shane Lowry (69) and Kevin Phelan (72) each at one under par and Padraig Harrington (69) along with former winner Michael Hoey (73) at level par plus Gary Hurley (72) on one over par, as well as Paul McGinley (73) and on four over, will need improved efforts to avoid today’s third round cut.
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