Spanish Open showing helps open up Major options for Paul Dunne

World ranking rise could mean automatic qualification for US Open at Shinnecock Hills

 Paul Dunne:  a Ryder Cup year,  the Greystones player is up to seventh on the European Order of Merit points list and 13th on the World Points List.  Photograph:  Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Paul Dunne: a Ryder Cup year, the Greystones player is up to seventh on the European Order of Merit points list and 13th on the World Points List. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

 

Paul Dunne’s upward trending – on many different fronts: in world rankings, Ryder Cup qualifying and Race to Dubai Order of Merit – has also brought up the prospect of earning an exemption to the season’s second Major championship, the US Open at Shinnecock Hills in June, without having to negotiate the qualifying minefield.

Up to a career-best 68th in the latest world rankings, jumping eight places from 76th last week on the back of his runner-up finish to Jon Rahm in the Spanish Open, Dunne has a place in the top-60 in his sights ahead of the initial US Open cut-off on May 21st at which point the USGA gives exemptions to all those players inside that mark. A second and final cut-off date for the top-60 falls on June 11th. He is headed in the right trajectory.

In what is a Ryder Cup year, with Dunne up to seventh on the European Order of Merit points list and 13th on the World Points List, getting to play in the Majors – with the large prize funds – is important. As of now, Dunne is already qualified for the British Open at Carnoustie in July and, given the PGA of America’s consistent stance in awarding exemptions to those in the world’s top-100, is most likely assured of a place in the field for the US PGA at Bellerive in August.

Lost playoff

For now, Dunne will seek to maintain the momentum of his recent good form - which has seen him finished tied 5th, tied 8th and second in his last three tournaments (Corales Championship and Houston Open on the PGA Tour and the Spanish Open on the European Tour) – when he competes in the Hassan Trophy in Morocco this week, a tournament where he lost out in a playoff for the title to Edoardo Molinari last year.

“It’s always special having the opportunity to defend a title,” said Molinari, adding: “The win last year was very important for my career, as I had struggled for a long time with injuries and bad form . . . I really had to earn it. Paul was playing some great golf and pushed me all the way on the final day and in the playoff.”

That playoff experience nevertheless stood Dunne in good stead later in the season when he finished strongly down the stretch to claim the British Masters title, his breakthrough win on the European Tour, and he moved on to Morocco from Madrid buoyed by his recent good form.

Of his final round in Spain, where he attempted to claim a wire-to-wire victory only to be leapfrogged by Jon Rahm, Dunne said: “I felt like I hit the ball great. Mostly my short game let me down a little bit. I hit a lot of chips that I thought were better than they were and I just kept misjudging bounces. Some of them skidded, some of them bounced soft . . . it’s a little frustrating not to be able to get anything going, not get any putts to go in. I hit the ball fantastic, long and straight, so I feel good going into the next few weeks. I’m driving the ball great. For me, if I drive the ball well I feel like I have a chance to win every week. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.”

Dunne’s good impression on tour has also brought a fringe benefit, with Ireland – where he will team up with Gavin Moynihan – earning the final wildcard place in next month’s GolfSixes team tournament at St Albans in England.

Missed cut

The novel team event – an official tournament on the European Tour – features four groups of four teams, with a round-robin series of matches on Saturday, May 5th, from which two teams emerge from each group to progress through to Sunday’s knockout phase. Ireland have been drawn in a group with France, Italy and Scotland.

Moynihan is also in the field in Morocco this week, aiming to rebound from a missed cut in Madrid. The Dubliner is badly in need of a confidence boost, after a run of missed cuts that has seen him missing playing the weekend at the Super6 Perth, Oman Open, Qatar Masters, Tshwane Open and the Spanish Open. Moynihan has yet to pick up a payday so far this season, and has yet to get onto the Race to Dubai order of merit in what is proving to be a difficult rookie season.

On the PGA Tour, Graeme McDowell and Séamus Power are in action in the Valero Texas Open, where Kevin Chappell is the defending champion.

McDowell – who missed the US Masters – finished tied-55th in the RBC Heritage, won by Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira (playing on a sponsor’s invitation). G-Mac is currently ranked 119th in the FedEx Cup standings and, as the 2010 US Open champion, is assured of his spot in the season’s second Major at Shinnecock Hills through his 10-year exemption.

Power ended a streak of four straight missed cuts when he placed tied-fifth in the Corales Championship and then survived the cut (finishing tied-60th) in the Houston Open. The Waterford player returns after a two-week break to play in San Antonio, where he made the cut a year ago.

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