Paul Dunne back on top of the leaderboard at Dunhill Links
Dunne continued his good form at St Andrews and is closely followed by Shane Lowry
Ireland’s Paul Dunne hits a tee shot during the first round at the Dunhill Links Championship. Photo: Craig Brough/Reuters
Paul Dunne’s victory at the British Masters last week rescued what looked like it could be the first winless season in 23 years for Irish players on the European Tour but it may also prove to have inspired more success.
After his spectacular 61 to claim a maiden professional win on Sunday, Dunne has shown no let-up by opening his Dunhill Links account with a five under par round of 67 at St Andrews to share the lead, with Shane Lowry just a shot behind.
Playing at the Old Course – one of the three courses used in the tournament alongside Kinsbarns and Carnoustie – Dunne got off to a flier of a start with birdies at the third and sixth before a moment of magic at the ninth when he drove the green and duly sunk the 30-foot putt for an eagle two.
Turning at four under on the course where he has particularly fond memories after leading the Open Championship through three rounds at the venue in 2015, he picked up two more birdies at the 11th and 14th before suffering his only blip at the 17th. Despite playing away from the famous Road Hole bunker with his approach, he failed to get up and down from the front of the green and slipped back to five under. A par at the last was good enough for a share of the lead with Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts who also shot a 67 at the seemingly easier Kingsbarns.
Dunne is bidding to become the first player since Jeunghun Wang to win back-to-back tournaments on the European Tour.
Speaking after the round Dunne said: “In general, all things feel good. Life is pretty good at the moment. My iron play was really solid, I hit everything pin high on the front nine which was important.
“I think the Open was a great thing for me. It opened so many doors for sponsors and invites when I turned pro.
“But, also, how many times are you going to lead the Open at St Andrews with one round to go? It was a situation I wasn’t used to at the time and it might have overwhelmed me.
“It was one that slipped away, but something that set up my professional career as well.”
Meanwhile, Lowry had to work harder for his 68 after slipping back to one under through 11 holes with a bogey which followed birdies at the first and the eighth. However, he turned it around with birdies at the 12th, 14th and 18th to finish just a shot off the lead.
The Offalyman is joined at that mark by England’s Tyrrell Hatton and Oliver Fisher, New Zealand’s Ryan Fox and Joel Stalter of France.
However, the opening round didn’t fare quite as well for Rory McIlroy, despite an (almost) spectacular finish at the 18th. Also playing St Andrews, McIlroy suffered an early blow with a double bogey at the second after making a birdie at his opening hole. Three bogeys and two birdies after that meant he reached the last hole at two over par alongside his father Gerry who he is playing with in the concurrent pro-am competition.
Faced with 357 yards he unleashed a booming drive down the fairway which bounded up the green to 10 feet from the pin. However, he couldn’t give the gallery the grandstand finish by making the eagle, instead having to settle for a birdie three and a one over par round of 73.
Four shots better is Graeme McDowell who carded a bogey-free round of three under – with all three birdies coming in his last six.
It was also a good day for 23-year-old Dubliner Gavin Moynihan, playing in just his second European Tour event of the season after getting an invite following some impressive play on the Challenge Tour.
The Donabate man – who lit up the final day of the Irish Open with a 64 to tie for 14th – finished with a two under par round of 70 at Kingsbarns.
For former champion Pádraig Harrington it was a battle at St Andrews as he birdied the last to get around in 72 and go into the second round at level par.
Collated first round scores in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
St Andrews, Scotland (Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 72):
67 Paul Dunne
68 Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton, Ryan Fox (Nzl), Oliver Fisher
69 Matt Wallace, Graeme McDowell, Jeunghun Wang (Kor), Romain Langasque (Fra), Benjamin Hebert (Fra), George Coetzee (Rsa)
70 Rhein Gibson (Aus), Branden Grace (Rsa), Aaron Rai, Tommy Fleetwood
Jamie Donaldson, Luke Donald, Jordan Smith, Aron Price (Aus), Dylan Frittelli (Rsa), Thomas Detry (Bel)
71 Lasse Jensen (Den), Ross Fisher, Brandon Stone (Rsa), Ashley Chesters
Zander Lombard (Rsa), Martin Kaymer (Ger), Carlos Pigem (Spa), Lee Westwood, Julien Quesne (Fra)
72 Jason Scrivener (Aus), Daniel Brooks, Damien Perrier (Fra), Matthieu Pavon (Fra), David Howell, Pádraig Harrington, Richard Sterne (Rsa)
73 Richard Bland, Maximilian Kieffer (Ger), Paul Waring, Rory McIlroy, J.B. Holmes (USA), Brett Quigley (USA), Alfie Plant, Matthew Fitzpatrick
74 Chris Hanson, Ernie Els (Rsa), Andrew Evans (Aus), Fabrizio Zanotti (Pry)
Justin Walters (Rsa), Chris Paisley
75 Robert Karlsson (Swe), Nathan Holman (Aus)
76 Daniel Im (USA), Patrick Newcomb (USA)
81 Austin Connelly (Can)
Kingsbarns, Scotland (Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 72):
67 Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel)
68 Joel Stalter (Fra)
69 Marcel Siem (Ger)
70 Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha), Gavin Moynihan, Gregory Bourdy (Fra), Bernd Ritthammer (Ger), Luca Cianchetti (Ita), Scott Jamieson, Nino Bertasio (Ita)
71 Marcus Armitage, Richie Ramsay, Alvaro Quiros (Spa), Peter Hanson (Swe), Jbe Kruger (Rsa), Paul Lawrie, Nacho Elvira (Spa), Scott Gregory
72 S.S.P Chawrasia (Ind), Sebastian Heisele (Ger), Alexander Bjork (Swe), Pep Angles (Spa), Stuart Manley, Gary Stal (Fra), Liam Johnston, Stephen Gallacher, Yi-Keun Chang (Kor), Soomin Lee (Kor)
73 Anthony Michael (Rsa), Jorge Campillo (Spa), Andrew Dodt (Aus), Brett Rumford (Aus), Niclas Fasth (Swe), Thomas Bjorn (Den), Thorbjorn Olesen (Den), Alexander Knappe (Ger), Adrian Otaegui (Spa)
74 Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), Byeong-Hun An (Kor), Darren Fichardt (Rsa), Thongchai Jaidee (Tha), Felipe Aguilar (Chl), Phachara Khongwatmai (Tha), Jose-Filipe Lima (Prt), Eduardo De La Riva (Spa)
75 Sam Walker, Pavit Tangkamolprasert (Tha), Grant Forrest, Paul Peterson (USA)
76 Sebastien Gros (Fra), Nathan Kimsey
78 Ashun Wu (Chn), Matthew Southgate, Johan Carlsson (Swe)
79 Florian Fritsch (Ger)
82 Duncan Stewart
Carnoustie, Scotland (Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 72):
69 Ben Evans, David Drysdale, Joakim Lagergren (Swe)
70 Oliver Bekker (Rsa), Alexander Levy (Fra), Marc Warren, Romain Wattel (Fra), Joost Luiten (Ned), Bradley Dredge, Gregory Havret (Fra)
71 Ricardo Gouveia (Prt), Jens Fahrbring (Swe), Jaco Ahlers (Rsa), Jack Davidson, Raphael Jacquelin (Fra), James Morrison, Robert Rock, Sam Brazel (Aus)
72 Julian Suri (USA), Laurie Canter, Connor Syme, Eddie Pepperell, Cliff Kresge (USA)
73 Thomas Aiken (Rsa), Ulrich Van Den Berg (Rsa), Matthew Giles (Aus), Jacques Kruyswijk (Rsa), Lee Slattery, Anthony Wall, Scott Hend (Aus), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa), Edoardo Molinari (Ita)
74 Victor Dubuisson (Fra), Magnus A Carlsson (Swe), Anders Hansen (Den), Mikko Ilonen (Fin), Haydn Porteous (Rsa), Matteo Manassero (Ita), Wade Ormsby (Aus), Marcus Fraser (Aus)
75 David Horsey, Alejandro Canizares (Spa), Stephen Leaney (Aus), Rikard Karlberg (Swe), Graeme Storm, Ashley Hall (Aus)
76 Lucas Bjerregaard (Den), Callum Shinkwin, Pablo Larrazabal (Spa)
77 Dean Burmester (Rsa), Tom Lewis, Renato Paratore (Ita)
78 Stuart Appleby (Aus)
79 Jack Singh Brar
80 Todd Sinnott (Aus)
82 Simon Dyson