Putting the key in contrasting form of Shane Lowry and Paul Dunne
This year Lowry has been frustrated on the greens while Dunne has flourished
Paul Dunne and Shane Lowry have had contrasting results on the greens as of late. Photo: Getty Images
Shane Lowry will be hoping his putter can be removed from the icebox it has found itself in over the last few weeks so that he can begin to put his good ballstriking to use at this week’s Italian Open just outside of Milan.
The 30-year-old Irishman has been consistently frustrated on the greens recently despite playing well and getting in and around contention. Three weeks ago there were opening rounds of 69 and 64 at the Portugal Masters before falling away at the weekend, followed by a seventh place finish behind Paul Dunne at the British Masters and then a tied-25th spot at last week’s Dunhill Links where he sat just a shot off the lead after the opening round but was scuppered by a 75 on the second day.
However, those results have been an improvement on what has been a frustrating season and this week would be the perfect time to go even better in what is the fifth of eight events in this year’s Rolex Series, with a cheque for €990,399 on offer for the winner at Parco Reale di Monza and the chance to take a significant leap in the Race to Dubai rankings with just six events left this season.
Frustration on the greens has been far from a worry for Paul Dunne over the last few weeks with the Greystones man still surfing on the crest of a wave after taking his maiden European Tour title at Close House and following it up with a tied-seventh place at St Andrews last week.
That top-10 also saw him leapfrong Lowry in the world rankings, taking the place of the second best Irish golfer in the world behind Rory McIlroy at 80th while Lowry sits in 82nd. And there’s no doubt that Dunne’s current good form is largely down to his confidence on the greens.
The 24-year-old is currently first in putts per greens in regulation for the European Tour season and second in putts per round with an average of just 28.1. To put it in context: Lowry is 189th on tour in both categories. And it only goes to strengthen the point further with a look at the Race to Dubai rankings in which Dunne currently sits 13th, while Lowry is back in 59th.
Over the last two weeks, Dunne has been fifth (British Masters) and 20th (Dunhill Links) in putts per greens in regulations while Lowry has been 55th and 35th respectively. It’s a similar story in putts per round with Dunne ranking first and fifth while Lowry has been 52nd and 35th.
Dunne is skipping next week’s Valderrama Masters in Spain – where Lowry is scheduled to play – allowing the 24-year-old a first trip home since clinching the British Masters title, before jetting out to China for the HSBC Champions event which will be his World Golf Championship debut.
A good finish in Italy could well see him jump into the top 10 where the placings become even more lucrative with a bonus pool being shared out among the 10 players after November’s DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
However, Dunne comes to this course with some bad memories after rounds of 71 and 73 saw him miss the cut last season at a time when he was scrambling to keep his card.
Meanwhile, the top three players in the Race to Dubai standings will tee it up together for the opening two rounds at the short but tricky tree-lined layout which demands precision golf and a good touch around the greens.
Standings leader Tommy Fleetwood will play alongside Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm, second and third respectively, with four other players currently in the top 10 — Alex Noren, Ross Fisher, Francesco Molinari and Bernd Wiesberger – also competing.
Pádraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell complete the Irish contingent and both come in off the back of different weeks in Scotland with former champion Harrington missing the cut while McDowell carded a final round of 67to tie for 15th.
Italian Open lowdown
Course: Golf Club Milano, Parco Reale di Monza, Italy.
Prize money: €6 million (€990,399 to the winner).
Length: 7,156 yards. Par: 71.
Defending champion: Francesco Molinari.
Course overview: Located in the huge Monza Park, the course is quite flat and very tree-lined. While it is quite short at just over 7,000 yards, it’s a tricky layout where accuracy is at an absolute premium. That certainly explains Molinari’s win last year with the Italian long renowned as one of the most accurate players on tour. The small greens make straight hitting even more important and also put a premium on short game.
A look at the field: It’s a strong field that has assembled in Milan with the introduction of the Rolex Series making this one of the most lucrative events on tour. The top three in the Race to Dubai - Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm are all in action - while Paul Dunne, Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell and Pádraig Harrington make up the Irish contingent.
Tips: Swede David Lingmerth (40/1) is mainly based on the PGA Tour but has played in Europe for the last few weeks after failing to reach the FedEx Cup finale at East Lake.His last appearance was at the British Masters two weeks ago where he finished with rounds of 62 and 66 for a tied fourth finish and some seriously hot form coming into this week on a course not too different to Close House. After his record-breaking 61 at St Andrews on Sunday Ross Fisher (28/1) is also worth a bet as he looks to add a win to the seven top 10s he’s already achieved this season.
Weather forecast: Sunny throughout with very little breeze.
Irish in action: Pádraig Harrington (first round tee time: 8am), Shane Lowry (first round tee time: 11.45am), Graeme McDowell (first round tee time: 11.55am), Paul Dunne (first round tee time: 12.25pm),
On TV: Sky Sports Golf from 9am.