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Dunne ahead early as Harrington looks on

 

By Brian Keogh and Paul Kelly

Paul Dunnne doesn't feel ready for the Ryder Cup just yet but he will get a chance to show the likely 2020 captain and Europe's leading player his talents today after opening with a seven-under 64 to take a one-shot lead in the Turkish Airlines Open.

The Greystones star (25) will tee up with Pádraig Harrington and World No.2 Justin Rose at the Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort feeling good about his game after his first "stress-free" round in months.

But while he knows he's not a Ryder Cup standard player, he can take a giant step along that road this week.

"To be honest, I just haven't been hitting the ball very well," Dunne said shortly after curling a slick 30-footer home for his seventh birdie of the day on his final hole, the 500-yard par-four 10th.

"I just scrambled for par for three months really. It's nice to see a bit of form, post a good score and get a bogey-free round on the card."

While his round yesterday was his lowest since he shot 64 on day one of the Houston Open in April, he still feels he has some way to go to be considered a Ryder Cup standard player.

"I need to win more tournaments, pad the résumé," said Dunne, who was one of four potential Ryder Cup stars to accept European tour boss Keith Pelley's invitation to this year's event in Paris.

"In terms of my game, I probably need to drive the ball better, more consistently. Turn a weakness into an asset. I picked up 20 yards of length this year, which turns my driving into an asset when I'm swinging it well. I just need to do it more consistently."

Harrington has nothing left to prove as a player though he did crack a joke at his own expense in light of the constant Ryder Cup captaincy speculation.

Asked what another win might mean to him, he said: "There's nothing that really changes my legacy in the game... maybe winning a Ryder Cup as a captain, that might help…!"

While he was initially disappointed only to miss a short putt at the last and shoot a six-under 65 after playing his first five holes in four-under, Harrington was quietly pleased with his start.

He is 89th in the Race to Dubai and desperate to make next week's Nedbank Challenge on merit and the top 60 who qualify for the final event in Dubai.

Shane Lowry birdied the last for a three-under 68 that did little justice to his ball-striking, while defending champion Rose holed his approach at the par-four fourth hole for an eagle two on the way to a bogey-free 65 in an event he must win to go back to World No 1.

On the Challenge Tour, American Sean Crocker fired a course record-equalling 64 at Al Hamra Golf Club to join Spain's Adri Arnaus on top of the Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final.

They lead by a shot on nine-under with Michael Hoey tied 34th on level-par after a 69 in an event where he may need a top-three finish to make the top 15 in the money list who will be awarded European Tour cards.

Meanwhile, Thomas Higgins completed a superb wire-to-wire Ulster Boys Championship victory at Royal Portrush yesterday.

The Roscommon golfer posted a final round 69 yesterday at the Valley Links to win by five shots from Dundalk's Eoin Murphy and Athenry's David Kitt.

Keaton Morrison (Greenacres) was the best placed of the Ulster contenders, finishing on three-under par.

"I was trying to keep calm and play it one shot at a time. It sounds easy, but it's tough to do," said 15-year old Higgins.

Belfast Telegraph

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