Paul Dunne irons out issues to lead the field in Turkey
Greystones player’s seven birdies in a bogey-free round sends him to the top
Ireland’s Paul Dunne during day one of the Turkish Airlines Open at Regnum Carya resort in Antalya. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
All along Paul Dunne knew there was no secret code; that, just like a locksmith taking his time, all it would take was patience. No “hey presto!” moment, no flicking of a light switch, nothing like that.
And, in the first round of the Turkish Airlines Open here at Regnum Carya resort all that time spent on the range working out an issue with his iron play manifested in a near-faultless performance as his opening round 64, seven-under-par, earned him the outright lead.
A curling, right-to-left breaking 30-footer for birdie on his finishing hole was, as he admitted, “a bonus”. That seventh birdie of a bogey-free round gave Dunne a one stroke lead over the trio of Justin Rose, the defending champion, Thorbjorn Olesen and Pádraig Harrington; and it vindicated his decision to spend a week recently with his swing coach Eric Eshleman in Alabama, USA.
“I’ve been working on some things, and it’s just a matter for time for it to kick in. I started to feel the strike and I could see the flight, and it kind of matched what I felt it should be. I felt under a little bit more control, felt like the club face was a bit more attached to my hands throughout the swing rather than feel a bit disconnected with the whole thing,” said Dunne, his 64 matching his best opening round of the season which came at the Houston Open back in March.
That was a time of the season when Dunne was playing his best golf. On returning from the US, he finished second behind Jon Rahm in the Spanish Open and then teamed up with Gavin Moynihan to win the GolfSixes, an unofficial event on the European Tour. Over the summer and into the autumn, however, Dunne disconnected with his swing to the extent that he missed four cuts in his last six tournaments coming into this week.
But the player himself knew that the work on the range would eventually come good. And his sense of timing couldn’t have been planned better, coming in the first of the megabuck “Final Series” tournaments leading up to the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in a fortnight.
“I think the best I played this year was probably in the GolfSixes in terms of ball striking. I hit the ball great. That run of like six weeks, I just had everything under control. I know it’s in there. Just unlock it again.”
Sometimes players get a good vibe turning up at a venue. This was one Dunne had earmarked early in the season. “This is a course I saw for the first time last year and I like it, it sets up nicely for me.”
And as he worked his way around, starting on the 11th, the 25-year-old Greystones golfer gave himself chance after chance, that crisp iron play providing the foundations for a birdie blitz. Seven of them, and some others which grazed the edges of the cup. Like on the fifth. And again on the sixth.
And on any occasion that he was out of position, like his tee shot to the par 3 eighth, which missed the green right and left him with a tricky pitch across a slope, his short game proved up to the task.
The bonus came with that birdie on the 10th, a long Par 4 with trees right and water left. Having played “stress-free” golf for much of the round, that tee shot is one of the most intimating on the course. “It was nice to hit a good drive down there, a nice second shot (to 30 feet), and the putt was a bit of a bonus, but I’ll sort of take it...the last time I played that stress-free was when I was practising to be honest.”
Dunne, currently 54th in the Race to Dubai order of merit, has targeted a win at one of the run-in tournaments which, after Turkey, include the Nedbank Challenge in Sun City and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai the following week.
And getting into contention more often and winning is what it is all about. “I need to win more tournaments in terms of resumé stuff. In terms of my game, I probably need to drive the ball better, more consistently; turn a weakness into an asset. I picked up 20 yards of length this year, which turns my driving into an asset when I’m swinging it well. I just need to do it more consistently.
“Generally my iron play is good. I’ve struggled with it over the last couple of months but generally it’s decent. If I can add three fairways a round to my statistics driving it would make a huge difference, and I think I could contend for five or six more tournaments a year. That’s the difference in my head.”
Dunne’s opening round has certainly put him into contention from the off here, back where he believes he should be. Sniffing a win.
(Par 71, British and Irish unless stated)
64 Paul Dunne
65 Justin Rose, Thorbjorn Olesen (Den), Pádraig Harrington
66 Haotong Li (Chn), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha), Sam Horsfield, Ashun Wu (Chn), Martin Kaymer (Ger), Thomas Detry (Bel), Lee Westwood
67 Jason Scrivener (Aus), Matt Wallace, Julian Suri (USA), Danny Willett, Erik Van Rooyen (Rsa), Chris Paisley, Gavin Green (Mal), Alexander Levy (Fra)
68 Tapio Pulkkanen (Fin), Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry, Andrea Pavan (Ita), Darren Fichardt (Rsa), Adrian Otaegui (Esp), Pablo Larrazabal (Esp)
69 Tom Lewis, Ryan Fox (Nzl), Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel), Alvaro Quiros (Esp), Matthias Schwab (Aut)
70 Marcus Kinhult (Swe), Lucas Bjerregaard (Den), Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), Maximilian Kieffer (Ger), Joost Luiten (Ned), George Coetzee (Rsa), Lee Slattery, Shubhankar Sharma (Ind), Stephen Gallacher, Jeunghun Wang (Kor), Wade Ormsby (Aus), Russell Knox
71 Soren Kjeldsen (Den), Andrew Johnston, Thomas Aiken (Rsa), Benjamin Hebert (Fra), Nacho Elvira (Spa), Oliver Fisher, Aaron Rai
72 Ross Fisher, Joakim Lagergren (Swe), Jorge Campillo (Esp), Ashley Chesters, Hideto Tanihara (Jpn), Andy Sullivan, Dean Burmester (Rsa), Trevor Immelman (Rsa), Jens Dantorp (Swe)
73 Lucas Herbert (Aus), Scott Hend (Aus), Robert Rock, Matthieu Pavon (Fra), Alexander Bjork (Swe), Thomas Bjorn (Den), Renato Paratore (Ita)
74 Ali Altuntas (Tur), Leon Acikalin (Tur, am), Brandon Stone (Rsa), Mikko Korhonen (Fin), Jordan Smith, Richard Sterne (Rsa)
75 Paul Waring, Richard McEvoy, Thomas Pieters (Bel)
77 Julien Guerrier (Fra)
78 (Taner Yamac (Tur, am), Matthew Southgate