Ireland’s Paul Dunne continues to ride the crest of a golfing wave, sharing the lead at five under par after shooting a 67 in the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
The 24-year-old – fresh from winning the British Masters last weekend – eagled the ninth hole and picked up four birdies in bright but cold and windy conditions on the Old Course at St. Andrews – one of three host venues in the $US5 million pro-am event.
The Irishman shares the lead with Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts who fought back from a horror triple bogey at the third hole at Kingsbarns to birdie the next three holes and added two further birdies on the closing two holes.
Dunne’s only mistake was dropping a shot on the 17th at the famed ‘Road Hole’ and then missing his birdie attempt at the last.
“It felt a lot different teeing-up as a European Tour winner as Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday just flew by this week,” he said.
“It felt good and my game still feels good, and I got onto the first tee still feeling confident with my swing and the win does take the pressure off you.
“My iron play was very solid and while it was a disappointing finish, in general all things feel good and life is pretty good at the minute.”
Dunne was competing at St. Andrews for the first time in two years after leading the Open Championship heading into the last round.
However, after his dramatic victory less than a week ago – which included birdies on his closing two holes to deny four-time major winner Rory McIlroy – Dunne is a lot more confident.
“Leading the Open was a good thing for me as it opened so many doors in terms of sponsors and invitations but then how many times are you going to lead The Open and St. Andrews with a round to go?” he said.
“It was a situation I wasn’t comfortable with at the time and may have overwhelmed me but I am in a place now to be able to deal with it, so I have more good memories than bad.”
Colsaerts, 34, is seeking a first victory in more than five years but after his horror start the Belgian was pleased to turn it around.
“I just kept very much composed and it really could have been a lot lower but I pressed it till the end, which is nice,” he said.
Five players – defending champion Tyrrell Hatton and Oliver Fisher from England, New Zealand’s Ryan Fox, Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Frenchman Joel Stalter – share third place at four under par.
McIlroy looked no closer to winning a first tournament this year, and in his last event of 2017, shooting a one-over 73.
“It was difficult to get any momentum going and that’s the big thing as you’re waiting around a lot and you don’t really have any rhythm or anything,” said McIlroy.
“It is a little easier when you get off to a good start. When you get off to a slow start, you’re waiting a lot and that can be quite difficult.”