Brian Keogh

Silver lining to Dunne's cloud as Italian swordsmanship proves deadly

Brian Keogh
Silver lining to Dunne's cloud as Italian swordsmanship proves deadly
 RABAT, MOROCCO - APRIL 16:  Edoardo Molinari of Italy celebrates his victory in the Trophée Hassan II at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam on April 16, 2017 in Rabat, Morocco.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

RABAT, MOROCCO - APRIL 16:  Edoardo Molinari of Italy celebrates his victory in the Trophée Hassan II at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam on April 16, 2017 in Rabat, Morocco.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

The cheque for €277,770, the knowledge that his card is secure for another year and the 85-place jump to 156th in the world will comfort Paul Dunne after his painful playoff defeat to Eduardo Molinari in the Trophée Hassan II in Rabat.

In short, he'll draw the positives and wonder what might have been. But the truth is that while the competitor inside him will be bitterly disappointed that he bogeyed a par-five to let his maiden European Tour title slip away, it took a par-eagle finish by a Ryder Cup player fighting to regain his place at golf's top table following six years of hell to deny what looks like an inevitable journey to the winner's rostrum.

Considering how brilliantly the Italian Ryder Cup player did to put years of injury and frustration behind him and force Dunne to birdie the 72nd hole, this is no time for self-flagellation.

Whatever about the poor drive into the trees in sudden-death — his achilles' heel — Dunne can reflect on four great rounds and that must-make 72nd hole birdie four that gave himself a chance to win when he wasn't quite at his best.

“I felt like there were just so many shots that slipped away from me," said the 24-year old Wicklow man. "It's just one of those days. I felt like I was really close to shooting four or five under and I was stuck with one under in the end.

“I'm happy with my form and looking forward to next week and hopefully I can do a better job of finishing it off.

“I'm just a bit disappointed not to come out with the result we wanted but it's a step in the right direction.”

Leading by two strokes heading into the final round, Dunne correctly predicted that a sub 70 round would make him impossible to catch.

As it turned out, a 71 would have been enough to win by one stroke. Instead, he shot a one-under 72 as Molinari claimed his first European Tour title in seven years in dramatic fashion, carding an eagle on the final hole to force extra holes at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam.

The 2010 Ryder Cup star came racing through the pack on the back nine with two birdies and two eagles, as Dunne struggled to hold onto the two-shot lead he carried into the final round.

But it was Molinari’s heroics at the final hole which proved the real turning point, sinking a 25-foot putt for what was the only three on the tough par five 18th all day to shoot a five under 68 to set the target at nine under.

Dunne, who had been three clear at one stage on the final day,  had to make a four at the last to force extra holes and pulled it off, threading his second from the rough through a narrow entrance to the green.

He pulled it off, leaving himself a reasonably straightforward chip which he duly hit to two and a half feet before fist pumping as the putt dropped.

Both players struggled on the first extra hole — Dunne slicing into the trees, then coming up short in sand with his third after Molinari had over-cooked his attempted draw around the trees and bunkered his second.

The Italian then overhit his long range bunker shot, running through the green into the first cut of rough. 

Dunne splashed out to eight feet but after Molinari used his putter and left himself with simple two footer for par, the Greystones man missed his par putt.

Molinari was left to knock in the winning putt for a third European Tour victory, which marked a remarkable return following a difficult two-year period during which he was forced to regain his card twice through Qualifying School.

“It's fantastic,"Molinari said. "I've been through some very hard times with injuries and bad form. To be able to win this week deletes a lot of bad memories and hopefully I can keep going down this road.

“Given the circumstances it's probably one of the best back nines I’ve ever had. 

"After the 12th hole I thought I had a chance, then I missed a short putt at the 13th. I had another chance on 15 - didn't make it - then when you bogey 16, you think it's almost over because on the 17th today you'd be happy with a par.

“I managed to hit a great five iron to seven or eight feet and I made the putt. That gave me a boost going down the last - I still had a chance. I thought ‘if I can make a three here then suddenly it's wide open’.

“It just shows that you should never give up, you should always keep trying, keep working hard. I've probably been the player who has spent the most time on the driving range over the last three years. This is a great reward for so much hard work.

“It's been a long time. Sometimes you doubt yourself and think these times are never going to come back.”

Dunne has now win €755,791 on the European Tour alone since he turned professional 18 months ago and is ranked 20th in the 2017 Race to Dubai with € 403,975 from 10 starts this year.

With Greystones' PGA professional Karl Holmes on the bag, it was not quite the dream result both were seeking but perhaps a timely reminder for Dunne of where he has come from — and how quickly he has risen.

Play-off: E Molinari 5, P Dunne 6

283 E Molinari (Ita) 71 74 70 68, P Dunne (Irl) 73 69 69 72, 

284 P Waring (Eng) 74 71 69 70, 

286 V Dubuisson (Fra) 73 71 72 70, L Jensen (Den) 75 69 70 72, 

287 D Brooks (Eng) 73 71 73 70, C Hanson (Eng) 74 70 72 71, 

288 A Chesters (Eng) 73 74 72 69, J Smith (Eng) 73 75 70 70, C Pigem (Esp) 75 72 69 72, T Fisher Jnr (RSA) 71 70 74 73, R Paratore (Ita) 73 74 66 75, 

289 J Fahrbring (Swe) 73 75 74 67, H Porteous (RSA) 77 70 74 68, J Morrison (Eng) 70 72 79 68, J Luiten (Ned) 75 72 71 71, M Pavon (Fra) 72 73 72 72, P Larrazábal (Esp) 72 73 69 75, 

290 B Hebert (Fra) 75 68 78 69, J Stalter (Fra) 76 72 71 71, D Drysdale (Sco) 72 76 71 71, S Heisele (Ger) 72 73 73 72, R Gouveia (Por) 75 69 73 73, J Campillo (Esp) 74 69 74 73, D Frittelli (RSA) 71 72 72 75, G Havret (Fra) 70 70 75 75, 

291 M Orrin (Eng) 71 76 75 69, R Wattel (Fra) 72 76 73 70, C Paisley (Eng) 76 72 71 72, R Karlberg (Swe) 75 73 71 72, P Edberg (Swe) 71 73 75 72, D Stewart (Sco) 72 72 74 73, L Bjerregaard (Den) 70 71 74 76, 

292 R Bland (Eng) 74 73 75 70, W Ormsby (Aus) 75 71 76 70, L Canter (Eng) 74 73 74 71, A Levy (Fra) 71 75 74 72, J Van Zyl (RSA) 71 75 74 72, M Ilonen (Fin) 72 73 75 72, G Stal (Fra) 70 75 75 72, A Rai (Eng) 72 75 72 73, J Winther (Den) 72 74 73 73, A Wall (Eng) 74 73 70 75, M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 72 72 72 76, G Bourdy (Fra) 71 71 73 77, 

293 S Gros (Fra) 77 70 76 70, J Lagergren (Swe) 75 73 73 72, 

294 A Cañizares (Esp) 72 76 75 71, S Soderberg (Swe) 73 73 75 73, A Saddier (Fra) 73 73 75 73, M Foster (Eng) 72 74 75 73, A Karlsson (Swe) 72 73 74 75, D Burmester (RSA) 78 70 70 76, M Manassero (Ita) 72 74 72 76, R Gonzalez (Arg) 74 71 71 78, 

295 J Edfors (Swe) 73 71 80 71, J Guerrier (Fra) 76 71 76 72, S Tiley (Eng) 75 72 72 76, A Otaegui (Esp) 73 72 73 77, 

296 A Lguirati (am) (Mar) 76 71 77 72, D Im (USA) 74 73 74 75, M Nixon (Eng) 74 73 72 77, L Slattery (Eng) 74 72 73 77, T Lewis (Eng) 75 68 75 78, 

298 M Southgate (Eng) 75 73 75 75, 

301 J Dantorp (Swe) 73 74 79 75, D Perrier (Fra) 74 74 76 77, M Armitage (Eng) 76 70 76 79, 

302 R Johnson (Swe) 72 76 74 80, 

304 R Echenique (Arg) 73 74 79 78, 

306 B Evans (Eng) 72 75 79 80,