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Paul Dunne wins maiden European Tour title at British Masters

Irishman fends off Rory McIlroy after wonderful final round 61 at Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Paul Dunne of Ireland on the ninth hole during day four of the British Masters at Close House Golf Club in Newcastle upon Tyne. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Paul Dunne has secured his maiden PGA European Tour win at the British Masters at Close House.

A final round 61 left him with an impressive overall score of 20 under par, seeing off the likes of Rory McIlroy who finished three shots in arrears.

Ahead of this weekend’s competition Dunne was 34th in the latest Race to Dubai standings and ranked 192nd in the world, this win will mean a substantial rise in both standings. This also gives him an exemption on the European Tour for the next two years.

A flawless round from the Greystones native included an eagle on the par 5 sixth hole, as he finished birdie, birdie to seal the victory in style.

The 24 year-old rose to prominence at the 2015 British Open Championship, where playing as an amateur he was tied for the lead after three rounds. He was the first amateur to do so since 1927.

In April he was denied his breakthrough win in the Trophee Hassan II tournament in Morocco, losing out to Italian Edoardo Molinari at the first hole of a sudden death playoff.

The British Masters was Dunne’s 51st appearance on the European Tour, and a 51st Irish victory on the Tour. The win earns him £500,000.

“I’ve come close before so it’s nice to get the demon off my back,” Dunne told Sky Sports. “(The highlight of my round was) I think the put I made on the 17th to make a birdie . . . once I holed that I knew it was pretty much mine.”

Dunne chipped in on the 18th to finish three shots clear of McIlroy, whose 63 was the lowest score of an injury-plagued season which he will bring to an early, self-imposed end next week. The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship will be his last chance to prevent only his second winless season.

Ryder Cup vice-captain Robert Karlsson, who began the day with a one-shot lead, finished third on 16 under with Graeme Storm, David Lingmerth and Florian Fritsch on 14 under.

Dunne enjoyed a remarkable stroke of luck when his approach to the 11th pitched into a sprinkler head on the edge of the green and bounced back to within five feet of the hole. But the good fortune was well deserved after he played the first six holes in five under par to move into a lead he would never relinquish.

McIlroy was always playing catch-up despite a hat-trick of birdies from the sixth and his chance of a first win of the year looked to have gone when he missed good chances on the ninth and 10th and bogeyed the next.

However, the four-time major winner refused to throw in the towel and carded four birdies in five holes from the 12th, before coming within inches of driving the green on the short par-four 17th.

From a tricky lie on the edge of a greenside bunker, McIlroy chipped to four feet and holed for birdie to close within a single shot, but a lengthy birdie attempt on the last was never on line.

That left Dunne needing to par the final two holes for victory but he birdied the 17th and chipped in for another on the last, a fitting end to a week which saw record crowds of 60,180 in attendance.