Here on Turkey’s sun-soaked Turquoise Coast, Paul Dunne is very much in the pink. So too are some of the hitherto peely-wally golf writers but that’s just because the communal bottle of Ambre Solaire ran out.
A delightfully assembled seven-under 64 at the Regnum Carya resort was as pleasant on the eye as the blue skies and the thermometer reading as the clement conditions invited low scoring.
Dunne was quick to reply to this particular Turkey shoot and his opening salvo left him a stroke clear of a powerful trinity which includes defending champion Justin Rose, former winner Thorbjorn Olesen and triple major champion Padraig Harrington.
This was more like it from Dunne. Having posted a couple of top-10s in the US and a second place finish in the Spanish Open earlier in the season, the 25-year-old, who has been struggling with his irons, has gone off the boil like a wonky tea urn. This seven-birdie round got him dialled in again, though.
In a week when there was more talk of Harrington becoming the next European Ryder Cup captain in 2020, the talented Dunne was inevitably asked about his own prospects of barging his way into the team as a player.
He was invited to Le Golf National for September’s match, along with a few other young, up and coming players, but the canny Dubliner is a realist and knows there is a lot of work to do if his game is to carry him to that giddy echelon.
“No, I don’t think so,” replied Dunne when asked if he viewed himself as a Ryder Cup player. “I think I’ve got a little bit to go. I need to win more tournaments and pad out my resume.
“In terms of my game, I probably need to drive the ball better. I have picked up 20 yards of length this year but if I can add three fairways a round to my driving stats then it would make a huge difference. I think I could contend in five or six more tournaments a year.”
Harrington, meanwhile, has been getting himself in to the mix himself of late and his last six events have spawned a second, a fifth and a seventh.
At 47, he continues to revel in the thrill of the golfing chase. Practising these days may be something of a grind but the cut-and-thrust of the competition still stirs the senses.
“I just enjoy what I do,” he said. “I want to come out and win and I think I can. I played nine holes here on Tuesday morning and it was the hardest thing ever. I don’t have that enthusiasm anymore, but I do have the enthusiasm to be out scoring on the golf course with a card in my hand.”
Olesen, the 2016 Turkish Airlines Open champion, got cracking with a 65 while Rose, who can return to world No.1 with victory, flexed his muscles with a six-under card, the highlight of which came when he holed his second shot on the fourth for a rousing eagle.
“It’s a pretty simple equation,” said Rose. “I have to win to get back to No.1, and that means I can just focus on playing good golf this week.”
Source : HeraldScotland