Paul Dunne leaps every hurdle with such consummate ease that his opening 69 on his PGA Tour professional debut in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines looked almost second nature.
As Shane Lowry was forced to birdie three of his last five holes for a one under 71 on the easier North Course, the 23-year old Greystones rookie matched the likes of Phil Mickelson and Jimmy Walker and outscored Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson by two strokes in perfect conditions at the spectacular South Course in La Jolla, near San Diego
“It feels really good,” said Dunne, who was four under after 12 holes before a three-putt bogey at the fourth (his 13th) heralded a tough finish to a three under round that left him three shots behind clubhouse leaders Scott Brown (66 on the South) and Andrew Loupe (66/North).
“I got off to a really nice start today, I was swinging it well and then — I started on the back nine — by the time I got around to the front, I hit a few loose shots,
"But I was putting well inside 10 feet so I managed to hold it together apart from the slip up on four.”
Asked about his up and down from 125 yard for birdie at the 18th, his ninth, he said: “I was happy to turn in 33.
“To me that is the toughest of the four nines we play in the first two rounds so I was really happy to go bogey free and then I just held on on the front nine.”
Thrilled to be making his PGA Tour debut in La Jolla, where the views are “incredible”, he said: “It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you play golf. I think I picked the right place to start my PGA Tour career.”
Dunne described his impressive performance in The Open, where he led through 54-holes but ended up tied 30th as “validation” because he had plans to turn pro at the end of last season anyway.
“It just validated to me that I was doing the right things and I was moving in the right direction. I feel like I have improved since then and hopefully I will keep improving the next few years.“
Dunne got his card at Q-School last year but his category is not strong enough to ensure starts in any of three desert events on the European Tour.
“I didn’t get invites so I got sponsors invitations over here,” he explained on Sky Sports. “Not a bad alternative.”
Reunited with his Open caddie, UAB Head Coach and a fellow Greystones man Alan Murray, Dunne got off to a great start.
Starting in the 10th, he chipped to four feet and holed the par putt, played the next three holes in regulation fashion and then birdied the 14th with a wedge to a foot and the 15th with a laser-like 180-yard approach to three feet.
Despite missing a chance inside 15 feet at the par-three 16th, he avoided a three putt by holing a nine footer for par at the 17th and then wedged to around seven feet and holed the putt for birdie after a pulled drive forced him to lay up at the par-five 18th.
He had to hole a 10 footer for par after another missed drive at the tough first and an 11 footer for par at the second.
But while he made two at the third, with a 135-yard tee shot to six feet, he three putted the fourth from 40 feet, missing what the PGA Tour said was a two and a half footer for par.
He had to hole putts from six feet, 10 feet and nine feet for pars on the next three greens as well as a four footer at his 17th and a six footer for his par five at his final hole.
While he hit just five of 14 fairways, Dunne hit 13 of 18 greens and had just 28 putts, including nine one-putts.
Dunne is schedule to play in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in a fortnight but a big performance in San Diego could get him into next week's Waste Management Open in Phoenix.
Lowry birdie the first on the North Cours but bogeyed the seventh (fairway trap), the 12th (missed green) and the 13th (greenside trap) before birdies at the par-five 14th (one putt), par-three 17th and par-five 18th (one-putt) turned his day around.