Dunne motoring at Monza; extends streak to 12 sub par rounds in a row

Dunne motoring at Monza; extends streak to 12 sub par rounds in a row
Francesco Molinari (Italy) during round one of the Italian Open at Golf Club Milano, Monza, Italy.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Francesco Molinari (Italy) during round one of the Italian Open at Golf Club Milano, Monza, Italy.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

Paul Dunne gave a mini fist pump after he holed a testing eight-footer for par on the 17th, then parred the last to extend his run of sub-par rounds to 12 in a row with an opening 67 in the Italian Open.

It's a crucial stage of the season for the Greystones man, who is seeking another win that could see him move further up the world pecking order and closer to the top 10 in the megabucks Race to Dubai

As Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry continued to trend in the right direction with two-under 69s to share 49th but Pádraig Harrington signed for a 73 following a late triple bogey seven, Dunne is 45-under-par for his last 12 rounds and lurking again.

The 24-year old is clearly brimming with confidence following his maiden win in the British Masters two weeks ago and as he's just three strokes behind a sextet of leaders in the $7m Rolex Series event at Golf Club Milano, he may be in the mood for more heroics.

Following an early dropped shot at the par-three third, the world No 80 picked up back to back birdies at the sixth and short seventh.

After a quiet spell, he again hit a purple patch with four birdies on the trot from the 12th before an errant drive led to his second bogey of the day.

The putter helped him avoid another dropped shot coming in and sign for a four-under-par round after a day of low scoring in perfect conditions in Monza.

Defending champion Francesco Molinari delighted home fans with an opening 64 to sit in a six-way tie for the lead in front of huge crowds.

Fellow early starters Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Jamie Donaldson and Alexander Björk matched Molinari’s blistering form on seven under, while England's Eddie Pepperell and Matt Wallace joined them at the top of the leaderboard in the afternoon.

South Africa’s George Coetzee and Korea’s Byeong Hun An sit one shot back on six under, whilst Masters champion Sergio Garcia, who is currently second in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex, and World Number 15 Alex Noren form part of a chasing pack of eight players on five under.

Garcia’s playing partners – Race to Dubai numbers one and three – Tommy Fleetwood and Jon Rahm posted respective opening scores of level par and four under.

It's a problem for Fleetwood, who is in danger of missing the cut and allow his Race to Dubai rivals to put a big dent in his €1m lead at the top of the money list.

McDowell and Lowry also know they cannot afford to miss out on the birdie fest either, though the course will punish mistakes.

As for Harrington, it was an up and down day and he may need a round of four or five-under par to have any chance of making the cut.

The Dubliner, 46, went out in two-under par as he mixed an eagle with two bogeys but needed to birdie the ninth, his 18th, to limp home in 40 as he followed bogeys at the second and seventh with a triple bogey seven at the eighth.

Francesco Molinari

“My back nine, the front nine, was a little bit loose. The tee shots were not exactly in the middle of the fairway but I fought hard, and had some good par saves and a couple of birdies when I hit the fairways. Obviously, I'm happy with seven under, it is a very good start and there's room for improvement.

“You know, sometimes things just click and obviously the chip-in on 18 was great. Everything was going in and it felt easy to play golf. Unfortunately, those moments never last too long.

“I won it my second year as a professional, so I've always enjoyed the attention. I don't know, it just seems to have a good effect on my game. I think I probably focus more, it's a bit like playing in a major or something like that. I did well last year, so hopefully, I'll do it again.

“Another good day, starting pretty much where I left off last year, so it was great. It's great to see the crowds. I think there's a nice buzz around the place, and I'm happy and proud to be part of it.”

Eddie Pepperell

“It felt a little more relaxed. We had fun as well playing with Nicolas (Colsaerts) and Matthew (Pavon). We all kind of got each other going in the early part of the round.

“I carried on the form I have been in and probably putted a little bit better today actually than I have done in the last few events. It was a very solid round of golf.”

Jamie Donaldson: “I played really good. You know, didn't do much wrong really today. When I had a chance of holing a putt, I made it. I generally putted a lot better, and tee-to-green was pretty good.

“It's a really good golf course. We used to play courses like this every week on the European Tour. It's nice to come back and play sort of old school golf. It's tight and tree-lined, and there was no wind today, so it was ideal scoring conditions.”

Sergio Garcia

“I'm happy with it. Obviously, there was some chances there that maybe I could have taken care of but you can't really make them all, or at least some days you can't.

“At the end of the day I played nicely. I putted quite well, made some good putts here and there. It was a good solid round and excited to hopefully do more of the same over the weekend.

“Standing ovation for the Italian people to come and support us. We play no matter if it's big crowds or maybe not so big. Obviously, when you see the amount of people that come and watch you play it makes it extra special for sure.”

Round one scores

64 E Pepperell (Eng), A Björk (Swe), K Aphibarnrat (Tha), F Molinari (Ita), M Wallace (Eng), J Donaldson (Wal), 

65 A Byeong Hun (Kor), G Coetzee (RSA), 

66 G Havret (Fra), M Warren (Sco), A Cañizares (Esp), A Noren (Swe), C Paisley (Eng), S Garcia (Esp), M Pavon (Fra), A Pavan (Ita), 

67 M Fraser (Aus), J Rahm (Esp), D Drysdale (Sco), D Howell (Eng), F Fritsch (Ger), D Brooks (Eng), J Campillo (Esp), R Gouveia (Por), Paul Dunne (Irl), S Brazel (Aus), R Ramsay (Sco), B Stone (RSA), D Fichardt (RSA), S Mazzoli (am) (Ita), 

68 N Bertasio (Ita), M Fitzpatrick (Eng), R Fisher (Eng), M Kaymer (Ger), M Kieffer (Ger), A Levy (Fra), J Luiten (Ned), E Molinari (Ita), N Colsaerts (Bel), A Connelly (Can), F Aguilar (Chi), M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), G Bourdy (Fra), W Jeunghun (Kor), R Paratore (Ita), C Hanson (Eng), J Quesne (Fra), L Slattery (Eng), 

69 J Lagergren (Swe), A Sullivan (Eng), R Rock (Eng), P Larrazábal (Esp), Shane Lowry (Irl), P Waring (Eng), T Olesen (Den), L Westwood (Eng), Graeme McDowell (Nir), D Im (USA), E Di Nitto (Ita), W Ormsby (Aus), L Donald (Eng), B Wiesberger (Aut), T Hatton (Eng), D Frittelli (RSA), N Fasth (Swe), L Scalise (am) (Ita), 

70 C Pigem (Esp), P Pittayarat (Tha), M Jiménez (Esp), J Carlsson (Swe), A Romero (Arg), R Fox (Nzl), A Otaegui (Esp), N Holman (Aus), J Van Zyl (RSA), A Hansen (Den), H Porteous (RSA), M Siem (Ger), T Aiken (RSA), B Hebert (Fra), D Horsey (Eng), J Scrivener (Aus), N Elvira (Esp), J Walters (RSA), C Shinkwin (Eng), D Burmester (RSA), A Johnston (Eng), R Karlsson (Swe), J Smith (Eng), L Bjerregaard (Den), R Sterne (RSA), M Southgate (Eng)

71 L Soomin (Kor), O Fisher (Eng), B Dredge (Wal), B Rumford (Aus), F Maccario (Ita), J Morrison (Eng), J Suri (USA), L Cianchetti (Ita), T Detry (Bel), R Wattel (Fra), M Carlsson (Swe), M Korhonen (Fin), E De La Riva (Esp), M Manassero (Ita), A Dodt (Aus), T Fleetwood (Eng), 

72 R Bland (Eng), R Jacquelin (Fra), V Dubuisson (Fra), S Gallacher (Sco), H Tanihara (Jpn), T Jaidee (Tha), L Jensen (Den), W Ashun (Chn), A Quiros (Esp), M Ilonen (Fin), 

73 A Tadini (Ita), D Willett (Eng), T Bjørn (Den), Pádraig Harrington (Irl), P Hanson (Swe), G Stal (Fra), 

74 J Olazábal (Esp), F Zanotti (Par), P Peterson (USA), 

75 D Lingmerth (Swe), S Jamieson (Sco), G Storm (Eng), 

76 S Gros (Fra), 

77 N Ravano (Ita).