Paul Dunne takes one shot lead into final day at Open de Espana
The Irishman steered clear of the chasing pack in search of second career win
Paul Dunne of Ireland tees off on the 17th tee during the third round of the Open de Espana at Centro Nacional de Golf in Madrid, Spain. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Paul Dunne will take a one shot lead into the final round of the Open de Espana in Madrid after he shot a third round 68 to stay out in front as he goes in search of a second European Tour title.
The 25-year-old from Greystones has led from the start at Centro Nacional de Golf and, while he had to scramble at times to maintain that lead on Saturday, he is best placed to continue the stellar record of Irish golfers in the event.
Eddie Polland (twice), Eamonn Darcy, Pádraig Harrington and Peter Lawrie have all lifted the 106-year-old trophy at different stages of its storied history and Dunne will have the chance to add his name to that list on Sunday when he starts the final round at 17 under, one shot clear of Spain’s Nacho Elvira with Jon Rahm and Henric Sturehed of Sweden one further back.
It was a hard-fought round for Dunne and one he wasn’t as pleased with as the opening two.
“It was probably the best my swing has felt, the best my body has felt it’s been moving but I just didn’t pull the shots off,” Dunne told Sky Sports afterwards.
“There was a lot of grinding there on the back nine but I’m happy to get in with four under. I probably wouldn’t have taken it at the start of the day but given the shots that I hit I’m pretty happy with it.
“I just didn’t hit shots. I hit a few shots without having a shot in mind so something to work on for tomorrow.”
With four consecutive pars to start the chasing pack were beginning to bunch up behind Dunne as his lead was cut to just a shot. However, his patience paid off with three consecutive birdies at the fifth, sixth and seventh to power clear again.
Rahm was continuing his charge behind with birdies at the 10th and 11th adding to three on the front nine.
Perhaps Dunne’s biggest momentum saver came at the Par 3 ninth after a pushed tee shot left him with work to do. After an average enough chip he still faced a lengthy par putt but he held his nerve to roll it into the middle of the cup and continue his bogey-free run, capping off a front nine of 33, three under par.
At the Par 5 10th an opportunity slipped away as his birdie putt missed left. Added to that was the fact that a referee joined the group of Dunne and Elvira to tell them to get a move on as they had lost a hole and a half on the group in front.
Following that warning Dunne pulled his approach left at the 11th, leaving a treacherous chip down the green but he handled it with typical ease, popping it up and letting the slope of the green take it down to a few feet from where he confidently stroked the putt home to save par and maintain his two shot lead.
It was all going rather well for the Greystones man and it almost got considerably better at the next when his approach to the Par 4 12th pitched inches short of the flag, almost jumping into the hole. It left the easiest of tap ins for birdie and he was looking more and more comfortable holding the lead as the round went on.
“I’m happy with how my game feels, I’m not really happy with the shots I hit,” Dunne said. “It was more decision-making as opposed to technical issues so they’re easy fixes. I’m confident about tomorrow and I’m happy with where everything is. There are plenty of shots I’d like to have back but I can’t so I’m just going to sleep on the lead tonight and then have a good day tomorrow.”
Leading wire-to-wire is something the 25-year-old is not familiar with having come from behind in his maiden win at the British Masters last October but this week he has looked unfazed in the position, even with the likes of Rahm attempting to close in.
Having dropped a shot at the 14th the home favourite got it straight back at the next hole to join Elvira as Dunne’s closest pursuer.
Elvira’s birdie at the 13th cut Dunne’s lead to just two and it was in danger of being cut further at the Par 3 14th when his tee shot missed the green right after a photographer made a noise during his downswing, resulting in a disdainful look from the Irishman.
A mediocre chip from the rough left nearly 20 feet for par but Dunne’s putting has been exemplary this week and on this occasion it was no different as he found the middle of the cup to maintain his blemish-free card.
The par saves were becoming more frequent but, crucially, they were still going in as he got up and down from a greenside bunker at the 15th to again avoid what could have been a dropped shot.
Rahm was now in the clubhouse at 15 under and two behind Dunne after a round of 66 and things were beginning to get a little wayward for the Irishman. A wayward drive at the 16th found a dreadful lie in the scrubland which is dotted all around Centro Nacional de Golf due to water restrictions in the Madrid suburbs. However he managed to chop a second shot up to the front of the green and get down in two to again get out with a par and keep his lead intact – albeit now at just one shot after Elvira found another birdie.
Dunne’s game was starting to become a little loose and the Par 3 17th put paid to his hopes of a bogey-free round when he found the water with his tee shot. A good up and down was needed just to save bogey and he managed to do so while also maintaining his lead as Elvira could only match his bogey.
It was the closest Dunne has come to losing the solo lead since Friday morning and he powered on at the 18th to keep that lead into the final round with a birdie four to match Elvira.
Collated third round scores in the European Tour Open de Espana (Centro Nacional de Golf, Madrid, Spain (Britain unless stated, Irish in bold, par 72):
199 Paul Dunne (Irl) 66 65 68
200 Nacho Elvira(Esp)68 66 66
201 Jon Rahm (Esp) 67 68 66, Henric Sturehed (Swe) 67 68 66
202 Brett Rumford (Aus) 68 66 68
203 Andy Sullivan 75 63 65
204 Marc Warren 66 69 69, Jorge Campillo (Esp) 70 67 67, Aaron Rai 67 71 66
205 Andrew Johnston 68 68 69, Maximilian Kieffer (Ger) 69 67 69, Bradley Neil 71 66 68, Jacques Kruyswijk(Rsa)69 70 66
206 Robert Rock 70 65 71, Callum Shinkwin 67 67 72, Pedro Oriol(Esp)68 71 67
207 Charlie Ford 70 69 68, Alexander Bjork (Swe) 67 72 68, Ashun Wu(Chn)70 70 67, Pep Angles(Esp)72 66 69, Jonathan Thomson 67 71 69, Samuel Del Val(Esp)74 65 68, Matthias Schwab(Aut)67 71 69, Hideto Tanihara(Jpn)70 70 67, Seung-su Han(USA)70 69 68, Jeff Winther(Den)69 67 71
208 Felipe Aguilar (Chi) 72 66 70, Jason Norris (Aus) 67 71 70, (a) Victor Pastor(Esp)67 72 69, Thorbjorn Olesen(Den)68 68 72, Gregory Bourdy(Fra)70 67 71, Erik Van Rooyen(Rsa)67 71 70, Marcus Fraser(Aus)71 66 71, Renato Paratore(Ita)70 70 68
209 Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel) 71 67 71, George Coetzee (Rsa) 72 66 71, Pablo Larrazabal(Esp)71 65 73, Jin-ho Choi(Kor)70 69 70, Anthony Wall 70 70 69, Dean Burmester(Rsa)73 65 71, Tapio Pulkkanen(Fin)75 65 69, Alejandro Canizares(Esp)72 67 70, Austin Connelly(Can)72 66 71, Yusaku Miyazato(Jpn)69 68 72
Adrian Otaegui (Esp) 69 70 70, Bradley Dredge 71 68 70, Nino Bertasio(Ita)69 70 70
210 Sihwan Kim (Kor) 69 68 73, Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 69 68 73, David Howell 72 66 72, Brandon Stone(Rsa)71 67 72, Matteo Manassero(Ita)69 71 70, Julien Guerrier(Fra)67 69 74, Matthew Baldwin 70 69 71, Darren Fichardt(Rsa)69 71 70, Andrea Pavan(Ita)71 67 72, Rak hyun Cho(Kor)73 64 73, Gavin Green(Mal)71 68 71, Richard Sterne(Rsa)68 70 72
211 Ricardo Gouveia (Por) 69 70 72, Richie Ramsay 73 66 72, Sebastien Gros(Fra)73 67 71, Stephen Gallacher 70 70 71, Christiaan Bezuidenhout(Rsa)69 71 71, Marcel Schneider(Ger)76 63 72
212 Tom Murray 72 67 73, Trevor Fisher Jnr (Rsa) 68 72 72
213 Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez (Esp) 69 71 73, Graeme Storm 70 70 73
214 Jason Scrivener (Aus) 70 69 75, Jens Dantorp (Swe) 73 67 74
215 David Lipsky (USA) 69 71 75
216 Paul Waring 68 72 76, Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) 72 67 77