Paul Dunne hoping to rediscover form in British Masters defence

Lowry and Harrington still with work to do to make it to top-60 on the money list

Paul Dunne: “It’s a big event at a great time of the year, just before the end of the season . . .there is a lot on the line. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Paul Dunne: “It’s a big event at a great time of the year, just before the end of the season . . .there is a lot on the line. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

 

Paul Dunne moves into new territory this week, as he defends a title on the European Tour for the first time.

The 25-year-old lifted the Sky Sports British Masters in quite spectacular fashion – holing out from greenside on the 18th – a year ago, which has earned him a role in the pre-tournament novelty shoot-out at London’s Canary Wharf where host and world number two Justin Rose will be among those in the sideshow.

For Dunne, though, his defence of the title at Walton Heath is the main show; and, heading as it is towards the business end of the season, with the Race to Dubai entering its final stage, nobody needs to remind him that an improvement on recent form is required.

Although currently safely inside the leading 60 players on the order of merit who will eventually make it to the DP World Tour Championship in the emirate next month (he is currently 51st), Dunne will be keen to kick-start the run in with an improvement in form.

Coming in on the back of four missed cuts in his last five tournaments – missing out at the US PGA, European Masters, KLM Open and Alfred Dunhill Links and only surviving into the weekend at the Portugal Masters – Dunne needs to recapture his form of earlier in the season, the highlight being a runner-up finish behind Jon Rahm in the Spanish Open.

He also teamed-up with Gavin Moynihan to win the GolfSixes, an unofficial event on the European Tour schedule.

“It’s a big event at a great time of the year, just before the end of the season Rolex Series events. With it having a good purse and a good field, it makes such a difference no matter what you’re vying for, whether it’s top-25 or top-60 in the Race to Dubai, or to keep your card. There’s a lot on the line,” said Dunne, one of three Irish players in the field.

Dunne, as it happens, is the only one of the trio inside the top-60 on the money list with Shane Lowry (66th) and Pádraig Harrington (95th) still with some work to do if they are also to move upwards into the elite field at the Tour Championship. Lowry has also added next week’s Valderrama Masters in Spain onto his schedule in his efforts to make it to the desert.

Best form

Harrington has actually shown the best form of the trio in recent months. When he finished his PGA Tour commitments at the Wyndham Championship, the Dubliner was ranked 346th in the world.

Since returning to Europe, Harrington has managed three top-10 appearances in his last four events: he was runner-up at the Czech Masters, fifth in the KLM Open and, having not touched a club for 11 days due to his Ryder Cup vice-captaincy duties, went out to finish tied-seventh in the Alfred Dunhill Links.

The British Masters has been revived in recent years with players taking it in turn to play the role of host, and Rose – as it happens – has the opportunity to return to world number one this week with a win or even a tied-second place finish.

Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood have taken it in turns to play the role of tournament host since its revival in 2015, with Rose selecting Walton Heath – a former Ryder Cup venue and the chosen international qualifying course for the US Open – as his choice this year.

“Walton Heath is a great venue,” said Dunne. “I’ve played there quite a lot. It depends what the weather throws at us but there have been plenty of good scores there in the past in the tournaments I’ve played. I know we can get at it.”

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