Paul Dunne to tick another box off with his WGC debut
He’s starting out on five-week stint that sees him move into new territory as a Tour player
Paul Dunne of Ireland during the Italian Open at Golf Club Milano last week. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Paul Dunne, the in-form Greystones player, is reaping the benefits of a career-defining season: this week, he ticks another box in making his debut in a World Golf Championship - when the 24-year-old tees up in the HSBC Championship in Shanghai, where he is the sole Irishman in the field - and indeed the tournament marks the start of a five-week global odyssey that holds rich promise.
With a limited field and no cut in the $9.75 million tournament, Dunne - who has moved to 81st in the latest world rankings, having started the year in 275th position - is starting out on a four-week stint that effectively sees him move into new territory as a Tour player.
The stretch of events starts with the WGC in China and then features the big-money, end-of-season tournaments on the PGA European Tour that take in next week’s Turkish Airlines Open in Antalya, the following week’s Nedbank Championship in Sun City and then the DP World championship, the final counting event on the European Tour. Dunne’s travels will then take him to Hong Kong where he will finish his year at the UBD Hong Kong Open in the final week of November.
With Rory McIlroy on an extended winter break from competition , Dunne - winner of the British Masters earlier this month - is the only Irish player in action in Shanghai where world number one Dustin Johnson returns to tournament action. However, Justin Thomas, winner of the inaugural CJ Cup in Korea on Sunday, has opted not to continue his Asian travels and will take time-out to replenish the batteries.
Shane Lowry’s five-week stretch of events on the European Tour has enabled him to move up the Race to Dubai standings to 61st, just one place outside of the top-60 who will qualify for the season-ending DP World championship in Dubai next month.
The Offalyman - who quipped he would love to take a “chainsaw” to the trees on the 18th hole at Valderrama where he run up double-bogeys on successive days at the Andalucia Masters, yielding five shots to the course on that finishing hole over the four rounds in eventually finished tied-12th behind host Sergio Garcia - has a week off before resuming competition at next week’s Turkish Airlines Open.
Lowry, who has slipped to 89th in the latest world rankings, has set a target of returning to the world’s top-50 by the year’s end (which would earn an invitation to the US Masters), and is looking to the Race of Dubai final run-in which are all part of the big-money Rolex Series series to turn around what has been a disappointing season by his own standards. “My game is not far away,” he said after Valderrama, “you’re never far away from a good week.”
Lowry’s stretch of five-straight weeks - with only one missed cut, at the Italian Open where he was unwell - has seen him move up the order of merit but he is looking forward to a week off - “I’ll be putting my clubs way,” he said - before hitting the road again for what he aims to be a three-week stint that will take him up to Dubai.
It is hoped the move will cut round times by around 45 minutes
Meanwhile, the European Tour has confirmed that next year’s rebranded Austrian Open - to be called The Shot Clock Masters in June - will be the first professional tournament to implement a restriction on every shot, with players facing a one-shot penalty for failing to play in time. Each group will have 50 seconds for the first player to play any given shot, and 40 seconds for subsequent players. A one-shot penalty will be issued for each bad time incurred, with each player given two time-outs per round which will double their allotted time.
The concept was trialled by the Tour on a single hole at the GolfSixes earlier this year, and will now be rolled out over an entire 72-hole strokeplay event for the first time at Diamond Country Club. It is hoped the move will cut round times by around 45 minutes, and European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said: “The 2018 Shot Clock Masters will be a fascinating addition to our schedule next year. “Not only will it help us combat slow play and reduce round times, it is also further evidence of our desire to embrace innovation.”