Paul Dunne ready to deal with favouritism in Morocco
25-year-old heads into Hassan II Trophy after back-to-back top-10s on the PGA Tour
Paul Dunne heads into the Trophee Hassan II as favourite. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty
Ireland’s Paul Dunne will have to cope with the pressure of being the pre-tournament favourite for the first time as he looks to go one better than last year in the Hassan Trophy.
Dunne lost out in a play-off to Edoardo Molinari at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam 12 months ago, but went on to win his maiden European Tour title in the British Masters later in the season.
The 25-year-old from Dublin has recorded back-to-back top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour in 2018 and finished runner-up to home favourite Jon Rahm in last week’s Spanish Open.
And all of that means the world number 68 is the bookies’ favourite to round off a superb run of form with victory in Rabat, where it took a birdie-eagle finish from Molinari last year to force extra holes.
“I think it was the first time I was really in that position with three or four holes to play,” Dunne, who was still an amateur when he shared the lead after 54 holes of the 2015 Open at St Andrews, said.
“I think I just learned about how best I can handle it. Then I did a good job of that come the British Masters [winning with a closing 61 at Close House] but it was a great experience.
“It was great to know that on a tough course like this I could play well and give myself a lead. Obviously it’s much different this year with the greens being changed, but it’s still the same layout from tee-to-green visually so hopefully I can have another good week.
“I’m not any more determined than normal. My game has been in good shape for probably five or six weeks now, I’ve been playing some good golf every week. I’m just going to continue what I’m doing and hopefully have another chance to win and see if I can do better.”
Molinari’s win was his first since 2010 and he has not recorded a top-10 finish since, but the former Ryder Cup player believes his game is moving in the right direction.
“I obviously have great memories from this place and I remember most of the shots, especially those on Sunday, and it’s fantastic to be back here,” Molinari said.
“I’d gone through a couple of bad years, a couple of injuries in the wrist. At some point you think you can never come back to that kind of level and it was great.
“Last year wasn’t particularly good apart from the win but I’m starting to play better so, hopefully, I can have a good week this week and try and defend it.
“I’m playing much better. I feel like especially in practice rounds and pro-am days I hit the ball as good as I ever have, probably. It’s just a matter of being patient now and hoping that sooner or later the game will come in a tournament as well, but I feel like I’m really close.”