Paul Dunne Brilliantly Holds off Rory McIlroy to Win British Masters
PAUL DUNNE held off a storming challenge by Rory McIlroy at Close House to win a thrilling British Masters by three strokes. Dunne, who led The Open at St Andrews in 2015 after 54 holes while still an amateur, has been knocking on the door for a while and he burst through after producing an astonishing final round of 61 and a 20-under-par total of 260.
Dunne reached the turn in 30 to lead by three and looked to be in complete control before McIlroy caught fire on the back nine, with birdies at five of his final seven holes. The four-time major champion, looking for his first victory of a disappointing year, shot a 63 of his own and was just one behind Dunne when he walked off the final green.
He then had to wait to see whether 24-year-old Dunne could cope with the pressure. And he could. Boy could he. He almost drove the 350-yard 17th, chipped to six feet and calmly rolled home his birdie putt, so he came to the last knowing that he could afford to drop a shot. Instead, he brought the house down with another birdie.
Dunne had a fine amateur career, playing in the Walker Cup, but this was his first professional win in his 51st European Tour event after losing out in a playoff to Edoardo Molinari at the Trophée Hassan II in April.
He started in terrific style, chipping in for a birdie on the first, and after another birdie at the fourth he produced a beautiful tee-shot to birdie the fifth, a glorious par three guarded by water.
A fantastic second shot into the par five sixth brought an eagle and Dunne had a serious stroke of luck on the 11th when his approach hit a sprinkler head and bounced to within four feet of the hole for yet another birdie.
He took advantage of the par five 13th for the fourth time this week and despite McIlroy applying the pressure, he held his nerve as he nearly drove the short penultimate hole and finished the lowest round of his European Tour career with another chip-in on the par three last.
It was a remarkable performance by McIlroy, who barely made the cut, and then produced rounds of 64 and 63 at the weekend. McIlroy, who nearly lost his ball at the opening hole, made the most of the par five sixth, holed a long putt on the seventh and got a fortunate bounce off the bank for a third birdie in a row on the eighth but when he missed good chances at the ninth and 10th and bogeyed the 11th, his challenge appeared to have fizzled out. But you should never rule out McIlroy when he is on song. He birdied the 12th, 13th and 14th and should have made it four in a row at the 15th. By now, massive roars were echoing all around Close House, and Dunne was left in no doubt about who it was who was making the charge.
He then birdied the 16th and the 17th after nearly driving the green. He knew that he needed a birdie at the par-three 18th and although his tee shot covered the flag all the way, he left himself fully 30 feet from the hole and was unable to convert the putt.
Rory McIlroy? was on fire today ????— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) October 1, 2017
Here's the best highlights from his 63... pic.twitter.com/KiKcTPEWFS
It was a great week for veteran Swedish player Robert Karlsson, who finished third on 16 under par. It is not so very long ago that Karlsson was barely able to swing a club, far less compete for a titles, but he will be thrilled to have produced a final round of 66. He was two ahead of another Swede, David Lingmerth, Florian Fritsch of Germany and local boy Graeme Storm, who shared the lead with Dunne at one stage during the round but was unable to kick on.
Ireland's Shane Lowry recorded a 67 to finish at 13 under, a shot ahead of Dane Lucas Bjerregaard, England's Tyrrell Hatton and Scot Richie Ramsay.
McIlroy will now head to Scotland to take part in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. He has only once in his career completed a season without a victory. The Alfred Dunhill is his last event of the year and he will tee off at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns with his confidence sky-high.
It was nice to have a chance to win a golf tournament again. It got me mentally engaged again," McIlroy said. "I thought that 17 under would do it for me. Paul is a very hard worker, somebody you always see on the practice ground, and I am absolutely thrilled for him. It's unbelievable to shoot 61 to win his first tournament, it's very well deserved. I will be playing with my Dad at St Andrews and I am really looking forward to it. He has been on the phone to tell me that he is pleased to see I have got my game back again."
Dunne was thrilled to have made the breakthrough. "It feels great. I feel like I've been up there a few times and never put my foot down to win it," he said. “I have come close, so it's nice to put the demon off my back and get my first one.”
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