It might take Paul Dunne considerably less time to win his second tournament than it did his first.
How about a week?
Just four days from winning the $4 million British Masters, the former UAB player finds himself in familiar territory: at the top of the leaderboard of a tournament, and again at the Home of Golf.
A 5-under 67 around the Old Course at St. Andrews gave Dunne a share of the lead with Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts in the $5 million Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Just over two years ago, Dunne found himself sharing the lead in the Open Championship at St. Andrews, the first amateur to share the lead with 18 holes to go since 1927.
Dunne’s attempt to become the first amateur major winner since Johnny Goodman in 1933 didn’t pan out. He crashed to a closing 78 to finish 30th, but his exploits paved the way for a successful transition from the amateur game to the paid ranks. He proved just as successful last Sunday when he fired a closing 9-under 61 to beat Rory McIlroy to win his first professional tournament.
“I think the Open was a great thing for me here because it opened so many doors for sponsors and invites and that kind of thing when I turned pro but, also, how many times are you going to lead the Open at St. Andrews with one round to go?” Dunne said.
“It was a situation I wasn’t used to at the time and might have overwhelmed me a bit. But I’m in a better place to deal with it now, I think. I think more good memories than bad. One that slipped away but then something that kind of set up my professional career as well.”
Not much slipped away from the 24-year-old at St. Andrews this time around. Four birdies and an eagle at the par-4 ninth hole took the Dubliner to six under before a bogey at the 17th, the Road Hole, set him back slightly.
“My iron play was really solid,” Dunne said. “I was hitting everything pin-high on the front nine which is a big advantage because the greens are so big. You’re probably not going to miss many but when it gets windy, two-putting from 60 feet can be difficult.
“I didn’t play great coming in. I kind of did the opposite of what I should have done but I’ll take the 5 under.”
Colsaerts recorded a similar score at Kingsbarns. He bounced back from a double bogey at the par-5 third hole with seven birdies to get into contention. The powerful Belgian is looking for his first win since the 2012 Volvo World Match Play Championship.
The 34-year-old finished 11th on the European money list in 2012 but has struggled to get inside the top 30 ever since.
“I kept very composed,” Colsaerts said. “I pressed it until the end, which is nice. Birdied 17 which is not really a birdie hole. I hit it really close and finished it off with the longest putt of the day on 18, which is nice.”
Rory McIlroy struggled to a 1-over 73 at St. Andrews in his last attempt to win this season. McIlroy is looking to extend a streak of winning at least once each year that goes back to 2009, but this week is his last competitive tournament of the year before he takes a long break to recover from a nagging rib injury that has hindered him all year.