Paul Dunne birdied the 18th in the Farmers Insurance Open to miss out on a Top 10 finish and an automatic start in this week’s Waste Management Open. He need not have worried — the organisers of the huge party that doubles as the sellout event at TPC Scottsdale in Phoenix immediately handed him a Sponsor Exemption and another chance to edge towards the Holy Grail of PGA Tour membership.
Like every other young pro, the Greystones man is aiming for the PGA Tour. And he will end up there sooner rather than later, if he continues to progress at this rate.
While it was surprising that the European Tour didn’t jump at the chance to offer the hero of last year’s Open sponsors’ invitations for their Middle East swing, it’s clear that Dunne is here to stay.
On Monday, he parred the 17th and birdied the 18th for a 77 and a share of 13th with Shane Lowry and Hudson Swafford at Torrey Pines, where Brandt Snedeker’s sensational 69 in Sunday’s storms proved enough to pick up the win without hitting a shot.
Lowry remained 21st in the world but Dunne rose 128 places to 425th.
For those who are counting, he and Lowry earned a cool $125,666 and 58 FedEx Cup points each. For Lowry, the finish will help his quest for Ryder Cup and FedEx Cup qualification. But for Dunne, the FedEx Cup points and the forthcoming starts in Phoenix this week and next week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am give him a chance to win Special Temporary Membership of the PGA Tour.
It’s a big ask for the Greystones man, who has a full European Tour card and has set his long-term sights on the PGA Tour.
Given how seamlessly he has made the transition from amateur to professional golf, he looks more and more likely to win somewhere soon and while expecting him to do so on the PGA Tour is possibly asking too much, anyone who can lead The Open into the final day as an amateur is capable of anything.
To earn Special Temporary Membership of the PGA Tour for the remainder of the season, a player (who can play seven events on invitations) must win an amount of FedEx Cup points, (e.g., by playing in PGA TOUR events through sponsor exemptions, Open Qualifying, etc.) equal to the amount won in the preceding season by the 150th finisher on the FedExCup points list.
In this case, Dunne needs match the 361 points won by Cameron Percy last year. After the Farmers, he now needs another 303 points. (See Non-members Points List)
To win that number of points in just two starts (see breakdown), would require a couple of big finishes or more invitations and on the evidence of what we've seen so far, neither scenario is out of the question.
Whatever happens in Phoenix and Pebble Beach, Dunne is making a name for himself and even coach Denis Pugh, who looks after the swing of Ryder Cup star Francesco Molinari to name but one, said on Sky Sports on Sunday that he believes the Irish star can win a major within the next few years.
Winning regular events usually comes first and rubbing shoulders with the elite can only help, which is why having Lowry and Pádraig Harrington for company for the next two weeks will be great for all three.
As for the Farmers Insurance Open, Snedeker won by a shot on six under par form KJ Choi (76) after a fantastic 69 in the previous day’s trying conditions.
According to PGATour.com, he spent Monday morning "nervously pacing around the library in his hotel while the final groups played Torrey Pines’ finishing holes in a stiff wind. Snedeker started the day one shot behind leader Jimmy Walker, who had to play eight holes.”
The rain that hit Torrey Pines hard the previous day didn’t continue into Monday, but the high winds, which knocked down large trees throughout the course, were still present. The clubhouse proved to be the best place to be in those tough conditions, as Snedeker’s 6-under 282 held up for the victory.
“This has probably been the most nerve wracking four hours I've had on TOUR, just because of the lack of control I had over everything that's going to happen today,” he said. “I had no idea what to expect.”
Kevin Streelman (74) was third on four under Jimmy Walker, who started the day with a one-shot lead, finished fourth after making four bogeys and four pars Monday.
It was Walker’s fourth top-10 in his past five starts at Torrey Pines.
“It played really tough. We got out there and all of a sudden the wind started blowing again and we just finished into the wind,” Walker said. “It was tough.”