Paul Dunne can go for broke at Portstewart

With his card already secure, Dunne can afford to go take risks in Irish Open

Paul Dunne’s left hand was busy writing autographs; all part and parcel of being a homegrown player in Irish Open week, where hats and pieces of paper are shoved under your nose at every turn. Not that he minds, for there is only one thing worse than being asked to sign autographs – not being asked to sign autographs.

A year ago in his inaugural appearance in the DDF Irish Open, Dunne’s preparations for The K Club were upset by a stomach infection caused by food poisoning in Morocco. This time, he’s in the full of health. Not just physically, but mentally too. Why wouldn’t he be? At this juncture of the season, his card for 2018 is already wrapped up and his focus is on bigger goals. Like winning, ticking that empty box.

Indeed, the 24-year-old’s maturity was reflected in a decision not to attend British Open qualifying at Woburn on Tuesday so that his entire focus could be placed on this tournament, part of the megabucks Rolex Series that has elevated the Irish Open back into the elite of the elite on the PGA European Tour.

“This is the one we all want, outside of any Major this is what I think will be the biggest tournament to do well in . . . my card’s been wrapped up for a while, the big goal would be to try and win something but I’m going to pick up as much money as I can on the way,” explained Dunne.


Momentum lift

What happened in France last week has provided a springboard for the Greystones golfer, a momentum lift that could yet propel him towards a maiden tour win. Dunne’s pretournament practice at the French Open had him so out of sorts with his game that he lost 10 balls in 27 holes of practice.

By Sunday, he was shooting a final round 65 that moved into a share of 13th place in the final standings, earning a cheque for €95,964 that bolstered his season’s take to €576,479.

“Something started to come into my head [in France] and I worked on it and got a little bit better each day, and especially in my first round my putting kept me in it. That stayed sharp on Sunday and I finally started to hit shots the way I was seeing them. Hopefully I continue in that vein of form, it feels good.”

It’s a measure of Dunne’s upward trajectory that his focus is on the Race to Dubai standings, and where that might lead him. He’s currently 27th. At season’s end, the top 30 earn places in next year’s British Open, the top 20 get into the World Golf Championships.

And the Irish Open, wrapped as it is in seven million greenbacks, is one of those big tournaments that can go a long way towards achieving those goals. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times