Dunne fires 61 to deny McIlroy at British Masters

Pint-sized Paul Dunne is celebrating after brilliantly denying a fast finishing Rory McIlroy to capture his maiden Tour title with a three shot success in the British Masters at Close House.

Dunne, 24, ignited his round with three birdies and an eagle in his opening six holes ahead of a sizzling nine-under 61 for a 20-under par tally.

Paul Dunne Tournament host Lee Westwood with winner Paul Dunne (Credit: European Tour)

McIlroy had moved to within a shot of Dunne in shooting a final day 63 for a 17-under total but Dunne held his nerve to drain two birdies over his closing three holes including sensationally chipping-in from well off the green at the last.

Dunne’s maiden success earned the quitely-spoken Greystones golfer a cool €566,800 and has taken his earnings this year through the €1,000,000 barrier for the first time in his career with winnings of €1,296,408 and moving to 12th on the Race to Dubai.

Dunne’s win is the sixth British Masters win by an Irishman and the first since the late, great Christy O’Connor Jnr captured the 1992 title.

The young Irishman’s success helped make amends for losing a play-off for the Hassan II Trophy in Morocco earlier this year.

Dunne had also led the 2015 Open Championship going into the final round.

“It feels great to finally win as I have been up there a few times this year but have never really got to put the foot down on Sunday,” said Dunne.

“So, in waking up this morning I said to myself I am going to try and win it rather than have someone else hand it to me and thankfully I did it, and hopefully I can do it again.”

“Also what happened in Morocco was a help as I had a couple of shots lead late in my final round then but Edoardo (Molinari) finished birdie, eagle so I was just waiting today for someone like McIlroy to have a hole-in-one on the last or something like that.”

“So after coming so close before it is nice to get rid of any demons off my back to get my first victory and hopefully build from here.”

McIlroy birdied three holes in succession over his opening nine but after dropping a shot at 11 the World No. 6 began to put real pressure on Dunne with a further three birdies in a row from the 12th along with birdies at 16 and 17.

“It was a good weekend and just nice to have a chance to win a golf tournament as that was big thing and the more chances I have like that I seem to play better,” McIlroy said in being handed a cheque for €374,996 and move to sixth on the Race to Dubai.

“Mentally, I was just a little more engaged and switched on. I started okay today and a little more slower than Saturday to be three-under through nine but then Paul got off to a great start.”

“But I set myself a target on the back nine to shoot four-under and finish 17-under I feel like I have a chance, so I did everything I wanted to do and it was just not good enough in the end.”

And while securing his best finish since capturing last year’s PGA Tour Championship McIlroy was full of praise for Dunne.

“It was unbelievable for Paul to shoot a 61 to win his first tournament and was incredibly impressive, and I am very happy for him as he has worked hard on his game,” said McIlroy.

“Every time I am on the range or the practice putting green Paul also seems to be there and he is always working very, so I am very happy for him today.”

McIlroy now heads north to Scotland for Thursday’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship still looking for his first win of 2017 and in his last event of the year.

“I am looking forward to the Dunhill and my dad rang me a couple of days ago saying ‘it is good you have got your game in shape’ which was great,” said McIlroy smiling.

“We always have a great time up there in Scotland and I hear the weather is not too bad, so I am really looking forward at giving it another shot in trying to win a tournament this year.”

However, McIlroy will not want reminding that of his 22 pro victories around the globe he is yet to taste success in the Home of Golf nation.

Sweden’s Robert Karlsson, who had led by a shot heading to the final day, posted a 66 for third place at 16-under par.

Andrew Dodt was the best of the two Australians to make the cut this week. Dodt finished in 37th place at 6-under with South Australian Wade Ormsby another stroke back in equal 44th.